Lucia Mar OKs teacher program

Lucia Mar teachers have approved the first step toward putting in place a new teacher evaluation and training program at six schools.

The next step is for 75 percent of the teachers at each school site to approve the program, called TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Achievement.

It focuses on ongoing professional development — with special mentor-teaching positions — but also provides a new way for evaluating teacher performance that includes bonuses.

Funding comes from a nearly $7.2 million, five-year federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund.

Members of the Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association voted during a meeting Wednesday to accept negotiated contract changes. The agreement, which would only affect teachers at the six school sites, addresses changes in the way instructors are evaluated and when coaching takes place, among other things.

Union president Lloyd Walzer said the agreement received enough votes to pass — it needed 50 percent plus one — but that the members who attended the meeting didn’t overwhelmingly support the plan.

“I would say that it’s caused some divisions,” Walzer said. “Certainly, we have teachers who are very enthusiastic about having more mentorship, more support and more professional input.

“And then there are teachers who feel it’s promoting the whole idea of performance pay and putting more emphasis on standardized tests,” he added.

Andy Stenson, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum, said teachers’ evaluations at schools with the TAP program will be based on four classroom observations throughout the year in which a teacher is evaluated on a 19-point rubric.

The evaluations make up half of what determines how much a teacher receives in performance pay, which could range from nothing to $5,000, Stenson said, but will likely average about $3,000. The other half depends on how students in a teacher’s class, or the students at the school overall, perform on standardized tests as compared to those same students’ scores the previous year.

Stenson said 94 percent of teachers in TAP schools nationwide (there are about 200 throughout the U.S.) receive some compensation.

“I don’t think dangling some money out in front of teachers means they’ll work harder,” he said. “They’re already working hard. The performance-based compensation aspect is simply a pat on the back for a job well done.”

The six school sites identified for the program all have more than 50 percent of students who qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program and include Mesa Middle School and five elementary schools: Dana, Dorothea Lange, Fairgrove, Nipomo and Oceano.

Teachers at two additional schools — Grover Heights Elementary and Judkins Middle School — will also vote on the program and could be substituted if one of the six original schools does not vote to move ahead. Counselors and principals are also eligible for bonuses and will also vote.

The sites will likely hold their votes Feb. 25, Stenson said.

If approved, one teacher would be made a master teacher and would work full-time with other instructors. Master teachers would receive an additional $10,000 and have their contracts extended 20 days per year.

Designated “mentor teachers” at each school would receive an additional $5,000 and have 10 extra days in their contracts, Stenson said.