D55 passes merit pay plan

BLACKFOOT — The Blackfoot School Board of Trustees passed a local pay for performance plan that will reward teachers based on student growth, but not without ensuring parental involvement will be taken into consideration in student achievement.
The plan, which was developed by a committee of administrators and teachers, will use two assessment tools—the Idaho Reading Indicator for kindergarten through second grade and PLATO grade level standards benchmark assessments, both of which are already in place.
Before passing the plan, the board unanimously voted to add a paragraph to exclude students who are excessively tardy, absent or fail to complete homework.
Trustee Bryce Lloyd said teachers cannot solely be held responsible for the success of students and whether students get enough sleep, proper nutrition and help on homework affects their performance in school.
"It seems to transfer responsibility from the parent to the teacher," Lloyd said. "Teachers and parents need to work together as a team."
Additional provisions of the program measure student proficiency in reading and math.
For kindergarten through second grade, students must meet the state benchmark level of proficiency on the I.R.I. or show a five percent increase of students testing proficient from fall to spring in order for the teachers to receive merit pay.
For all other grades, 90 percent of students must show a five precent increase of their proficiency score as measured by PLATO grade level standards for reading and math from fall to spring.
At the sixth through eighth grade level, teacher's pay for performance will be based on students in their advisory class.
At the high school level, pay for performance will be based on students in their Credit Progress and Recovery (CPR) class.
At Independence High School, 90 percent of all students not excluded for federal purposes under Adequate Yearly Progress must show a five percent increase in their proficiency in reading and math.
Building administrators will also receive merit pay under the program.
The board expressed their dislike of the state's pay for performance program, but Superintendent Scott Crane said it was mandated by the state and if they do not adopt a local plan, they would default to the state plan.
"We felt like it was very important to have our own way of determining if we are making the grade," Crane said.
One issue with the program is that classified employees are not rewarded or considered, Crane said. Bobbie Steffensen, co-president of the Blackfoot Education Association, said in order for teachers to receive merit pay locally they must first meet the state guidelines. She pointed out that all employees—teachers and classified staff—received pay cuts to fund the pay for performance, but the program only benefits teachers.
"We are not advocates of pay for performance as outlined by the state," Steffensen said.
The program will not be implemented until 2012, and the amount of state funding for the program has not been determined. School districts had until Sept. 1 to adopt a local pay for performance plan.