“It’s disappointing.” Teacher bonus program based on flawed formula?

(WISH Photo, file)
(WISH Photo, file)

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – In Education Watch 10 we’re zeroing in on what school officials are calling a broken formula.

Each year, by law the state is required to hand out $40 million in teacher bonuses. With Carmel Schools getting more than $2 million of that amount and Vigo County Schools less than $300,000, the question comes up, just how fair is the distribution method?

“It is discouraging when you see that the formula itself is broken,” said Mick Newport, Director of Human Resources at the Vigo County School Corporation.

Local superintendents, teachers and the state union leader say a formula approved by state lawmakers to calculate teacher bonus pay has caused inequalities for how the annual performance-based grants are distributed this year.

Even as state leaders and educators agree the soon-to-be replaced ISTEP is flawed, results of the exam are the main factor in determining how much money a school receives to reward top teachers.

Basically, the formula ties the 2016 ISTEP pass rate and graduation rates at each eligible school to how much money a district receives for bonus pay. Only teachers rated as “effective” or “highly effective” are eligible for the bonuses.

“So the board had approved that we do some matching funds to the grant, so that everyone will get a little bit of a piece of the pie,” said Newport.

The corporation will use a quarter of a million dollars from the general fund to match what the state is providing. The total is divided equally into one-time stipends for each employee. “It shows the appreciation we have for our teachers and other staff members in our buildings, and its money well spent,” explained Newport.

This year, the district received a little more than $274,000. With the matching funds, that breaks down to a $380 stipend, which has been reduced by 18% from the money received last year.

“I don’t think our teachers put in 18% less effort. They put in 100% effort each and every day. I certainly hope there is change. I would like for equality across the board,” said Newport.

Around 90 charter schools and traditional school districts did not receive any bonus money. Some of the schools incorrectly submitted paperwork or did not turn in their teacher evaluation guidelines.