PT High School awarded $303,593 - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

PT High School awarded $303,593

Released by Vickie Echols with Pine Tree ISD:

LONGVIEW, TX - Pine Tree ISD is scheduled to reward teachers and staff at the high school for a job well done by handing out incentive pay in their December check. The campus was awarded with approximately $303,593.00 in grant funding through the District Awards for Teacher Excellence (DATE) grant, a non-competitive grant from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) that is designed to provide an incentive awards program for teachers and campuses who improve student achievement.

Pine Tree applied for the DATE funding available from the Texas Education Agency. The state government supplied $303,593.00 in additional funds. The PT School Board voiced support of funding for all campuses that elected to participate. An informational session was presented first to a small representative group of each campus, and then again to all staff members of the district in campus meetings; each campus voted whether or not to participate. Per TEA DATE Grant guidelines, if the award plan is not implemented district-wide, participation of selected campuses in DATE must be approved by a majority of classroom teachers assigned to the selected campus by a vote of simple majority. The high school was the only campus to vote with a majority in favor of participation, and as a result will receive all of the allotted funding for the district this year.

A committee of teachers from the high school worked with Melinda Tidwell, PTHS Assistant Principal, K'Dawn O'Rear, PTISD Assistant Superintendent, and Vickie Echols, grant writer to develop the performance targets. They met during March to create the details of the plan. A draft of the plan was presented to the high school faculty for feedback.

The program incorporated two tiers, or parts, for the incentive pay. Part One included individual teacher awards, based on student achievement. In this category, 66 PTHS classroom teachers received awards that ranged from $1,445.68 - $2,891.36. Total amount of awards given in this category was $181,230.44.

Part Two was an additional incentive for all staff members on the campus to benefit from academic performance based on the 2009 TAKS test and other campus-wide and individual indicators of success. Campus-wide criterion included: TAKS scores, HS completion rate, SAT/ACT scores, Advanced Placement credit and the percentage of students participating in the recommended HS program. Individual criterion included: hours of extra professional development, post graduate degrees and professional evaluations.

Overall, 175HS staff members qualified to receive an award. The only caveat was that in order to receive incentive pay, staff members had to have been a full time employee with that campus last year. Final checks ranged from $185.00 to $3,133.00 and included teachers, principals, counselors and support personnel.

O'Rear said that the district spent the largest percent of the total amount available from the grant in pay incentives. "We are very excited to have this opportunity to reward our teachers and the campus staff for their hard work last year." She said the remaining amount that was not awarded is designated for professional development, clerical assistance for the data collection, disaggregation, organization, and record keeping of the data related to reaching the goals for the DATE grant, and data software.

The state allows the districts to set their own targets, and does not require that the TAKS test be used as the criterion. However, O'Rear said the district chose to use the TAKS test as the main target for the incentive program because it was a logical solution.

"We felt that since the state already ranks us and holds us accountable for scores on the annual TAKS test, we would tie performance to it as well," she said. The process was structured so that students in the four core disciplines: English, math, science, and social studies had to show growth in each of the tested subjects as a departmental team.

"Although we set specific standards, we were actually looking more at growth than the percent meeting standard," she said. "For a first year, it went really well."

Advanced Placement test scores were also included for the eleven instructors who are certified to teach these specialized courses. All AP teachers achieved the goal of ensuring that 50% or more of their students taking the advanced placement exam earned a score of at a 3 or above on AP test.

Campus principal, Cindy Gabehart anticipated that teachers might have questions and set up an opportunity for them to discuss any discrepancies with Faye Gode, the campus Instructional Specialist.

"I just set up camp with all my notebooks of documentation," Gode said, referring to the few days that she set aside to make herself available to answer questions. She noted that in general the feeling among the staff was excitement.

Gabehart said the response to the incentive program was overwhelming, not just for the excitement and enthusiasm that it inspired, but for the personal outcomes as well.

"Wow, what a morale booster!" said World History teacher Roxanne Taylor. "I can't wipe this smile off my face. I've been saving for a mission trip to Russia next summer, but until today the trip was mostly out of reach. For the first time I can see this trip becoming a reality."

"It was really wonderful," Gabehart said. "The fact that all staff was included will help us feel like we're all part of the team, and an important part of what happens at PTHS."

"While creating the incentive system was a little tricky, passing out the checks will be well worth the effort," O'Rear said. The district has already submitted next year's incentive pay program and due to a change in the requirement for a campus vote, all campuses in the district will participate next year according to O'Rear.

Based on input received, a few changes to the current targets were made. She said the difficult part of writing the program is finding the right balance. Once the incentive system is in place, the district is obligated to pay everyone who hits the performance targets. If the total payout exceeds the amount of the grant, the district has to make up the difference.

"This first year has been a learning opportunity. Next year we won't be able to pay out as high as we did this year since the total amount will be shared among more people," according to O'Rear. "But we hope that we're equally or even more successful because in the end our students are the ones who really benefit when we strive for excellence."

The grant, created in 2006, allows districts in Texas to create or continue a system of awards for educators who are demonstrating success in the classroom and to reward those who have positively impacted student academic improvement, growth and achievement.

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