Schools within the Payson Unified School District have inched up the student achievement goals teachers must meet to earn performance pay, pleasing school board members who quickly approved the plans Monday night.
The quick approval contrasted from previous discussions during which board members agonized about “raising the bar.” Members wanted to make teachers work for the money instead of approving goals so low that winning the bonus was all but certain.
Member Matt Van Camp said the new goals impressed him.
Member Barbara Underwood said she was “disappointed” that some of the schools’ goals focused more on parent and professional development than academic achievement. However, the schools did increase the standards, “so I guess I’m happy with that.”
Standards at each school varied substantially. At Frontier and Payson Elementary schools, both led by Will Dunman, teachers adopted plans that incorporated reading and math goals, along with goals related to a new, districtwide early intervention program called Response to Intervention. FES and PES also retained parent satisfaction goals while Julia Randall Elementary School dropped that category.
Performance pay plans at FES and PES tie a quarter of the money to each of the four goals — academic, early intervention, professional development and parent satisfaction.
Julia Randall Elementary School’s academic goals require that 80 percent of students in grades three through five pass the AIMS math and reading tests, up from last year’s respective 78 and 75 percent. That goal matches academic goals at the other two elementary schools.
However, goals for JRE’s professional development grew more vague this year. Last year, the school required staff to have an 80 percent attendance rate at in-services and other professional development meetings. PES and FES kept that goal this year.
At JRE this year, professional development goals simply promised that staff would continue to receive training.
An increase in goals at Payson High School marked one of the more dramatic changes. This year, 80 percent of the school’s sophomores must pass the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards writing test in the spring. Last year, the goal required sophomores to better their reading scores from eighth grade, when 69 percent passed the AIMS reading test. To earn money from the parent satisfaction goal, the school must score a 3.5 on a survey with a five-point scale. Last year, the school needed a 3.25.
At Rim Country Middle School, teachers increased the percentage of students who need to pass AIMS reading to 76 percent from 70 percent. The school upped requirements for earning a portion of the money.
Last year, if anywhere from 50 to 59 percent of the students passed the AIMS reading test, teachers earned 80 percent of the money. In September, school board members singled out the clause as a prime example of why the performance pay plans needed revamping. This year, if 70 percent of students meet the goal, teachers earn 80 percent of the money. If 69 percent or fewer pass, teachers receive no money.
The amount of money changes every year based on how flush the state is. The incentive has in the past reached $2,700, but this year will amount to $780.
Either all teachers at the school earn the money or none do. If a school fails to meet its goals, the money doesn’t disappear. Instead, when the school finally reaches its goal, teachers receive money from the failed years in addition to money for the successful year.