Lucia Mar teachers at seven of the South County district’s schools voted Friday to approve a new teacher evaluation and training program backed by federal money, setting the stage for it to be in place in the fall.
The program will be launched at six of those schools, including Mesa and Judkins middle schools and four elementary schools: Dorothea Lange, Fairgrove, Nipomo and Oceano. Dana Elementary declined the program.
Teachers at the seventh school, Grover Heights Elementary, voted to approve it, and district administrators might try to get more grant money to put the program in place there.
Teachers and other credentialed employees at those schools have adopted a system called TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Achievement, five months after the district was awarded a $7.2 million, five-year federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund. The program creates eight new positions.
The program will give teachers at the schools additional coaching and weekly meetings with a “master teacher” as well as more consistent evaluations based on a 19-point scoring system, district administrators said. The program also calls for bonuses for some teachers and principals.
Fairgrove Elementary intervention teacher Jeannie Cross, who traveled to Arizona to view teachers working under the TAP model, said she is looking forward to learning new teaching strategies from the master teacher, who can research lessons and test their effectiveness in classrooms.
“Teachers get really busy, and sometimes we stick to a traditional way of doing things that maybe isn’t the most effective,” she said. “The biggest excitement for me is that someone else can say, ‘I’ve tried this out, now do this.’ ”
The TAP program also provides a new way for evaluating teacher performance that includes bonuses — a component that has worried some teachers, who are concerned that awarding performance pay places too much emphasis on standardized tests.
Lucia Mar teachers union President Lloyd Walzer said he was initially wary of the program, but he now feels positive about its emphasis on mentorship and professional growth opportunities.
An earlier vote on the program, in which teachers districtwide had a say, passed in January, but Walzer said at the time the vote was not overwhelming.
The vote at the seven campuses Friday, however, was decisive. The percentages of approval ranged from 84 percent at Judkins to 92 percent at Fairgrove, Oceano and Nipomo elementary schools.
Six schools had been targeted originally for the program; Judkins Middle and Grover Heights Elementary were chosen as backups if the others voted not to approve it.
One school, Dana Elementary, did not approve it; only 66 percent of the teachers voted in favor. For the program to take effect, 75 percent of the teachers at a campus had to agree to join it.
Teachers’ evaluations at schools with the TAP program will be based on four classroom observations throughout the year, said Andy Stenson, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum.
The evaluations make up half of what determines how much a teacher receives in performance pay, which would likely average about $3,000, Stenson said. Principals could also receive an average bonus of $6,000.
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.
At the six campuses, one teacher will be made a master teacher and work full time with other instructors.
Master teachers, who won’t have a class, will receive an additional $10,000 and have their contracts extended 20 days per year.
Designated mentor teachers at each school will receive an additional $5,000 and have 10 extra days in their contracts, Stenson said.
Stenson said district administrators would continue to seek money to maintain the program after the five-year grant ends. Without grant funding, the program would cost about $150,000 a year to continue at each campus.