Springfield and Boston receive federal funds for struggling schools

The state has received a five-year, $27 million federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant to help attract, support, evaluate and retain effective teachers in 22 Level 4 (underperforming) schools, 10 in Springfield and 12 in Boston.

Springfield Education Association President Tim Collins said that the funds are badly needed in his district, which serves a high percentage of low-income students and English language learners. “It’s important to have financial and non-financial incentives in place to retain, support and encourage our excellent teachers who work with students in these Level 4 schools and attract new teachers who are equipped to work with students who are struggling academically,” said Collins. “We feel this grant strikes the right balance.”

MTA President Paul Toner congratulated Springfield on receiving the grant, which provides teachers with opportunities to take on new responsibilities or work longer hours for additional compensation. “Closing student achievement gaps requires extraordinary effort, incredible dedication and more resources,” said Toner. “This grant will provide the resources in these schools while teachers, administrators and other staff will continue to provide the effort and dedication.”

Although some in the media have described the grant as a “merit pay” plan, Collins explained that it does not fit the traditional definition of that term, which typically implies paying individual teachers at different rates based on student test scores. Under this grant, all staff in a school that meets certain goals will receive additional pay.

According to a summary of the proposal developed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Springfield and Boston will use the funds in several areas to achieve the grant’s goals.

  • Financial incentives will be use to recruit experienced, effective teachers for Level 4 (underperforming) schools.
  • Support will be offered by providing high-quality embedded professional development and by giving teachers real-time access to student assessment data.
  • A new evaluation system will be developed in Springfield – and eventually the rest of the state – that will include student achievement data as one factor in establishing effectiveness ratings.
  • School-wide – but not individual teacher – financial rewards will be provided to all school staff if the school meets academic and other targets, such as attendance and graduation rates, established by the DESE.
  • Teachers who receive a “highly effective” rating will be eligible for additional leadership roles and eligible for “retention bonuses” tied to operating “open classrooms” modeling effective instructional practices to their peers.