In November 2005, Governor Rick Perry initiated the $10 million grant program for paying bonuses to school employees who have performed above expectations in raising student performance levels. One hundred Texas schools have been invited to participate in the Governor Educator Excellence Award Program. To date, 98 have accepted the invitation.
The chosen Texas Schools have a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students. Each school has demonstrated high levels of student achievement or marked student improvement. Each has been rated exemplary or recognized, which are the two top academic ratings that can be awarded to a school under the Texas schools’ accountability system; or they have shown strong performance gains in the areas of mathematics and reading.
Each school may apply for a three-year grant as follows:
• Schools with 449 students or less — $60,000 a year grant,
• With 450 to 699 students — $90,000 a year grant,
• 700 to 1199 students — $135,000 a year grant, or
• 1,200 students or more — $180,000 a year grant.
To maintain eligibility for the grant program, the participating Texas schools must receive ratings of academically acceptable or better. Recommended bonus amounts range from $3,000 to $10,000 per individual.
Each school may develop a customized incentive pay program that fits their individual school, as long as the teachers are involved in its development and under the following guidelines:
• 75 percent of the grant money must be used for classroom teacher incentive pay;
• A classroom teacher must be employed by the Texas schools district and spend an average of four hours each day teaching in an academic setting or career/technology instructional setting;
• Award recipients must improve student performance and exceed academic growth expectations;
• Performance must be determined using objective and quantifiable measures, such as local benchmarking systems, end-of-course tests, and other assessments, and
• Recipients must have collaborated the other faculty and staff members to improve the overall student performance at the school.
Athletic coaches are not eligible for the program, unless they also teach and qualify under the classroom teacher guidelines.
The customized incentive pay plans may take into account a teacher’s assignment in hard-to-staff areas that are specific to individual school districts. A teacher’s initiative and commitment to other activities that directly result in improved student performance also may be considered, such as tutoring students after school.
Some of the possible uses for the remaining 25 percent of the grant money are:
• To provide incentive pay for other school personnel who contribute to increased student achievement,
• Provide training to teachers,
• Support activities for mentoring,
• Teacher induction programs,
• Signing bonuses for teachers in high-need subject areas,
• Activities that support common planning time and curriculum development,
• Proven programs to recruit and retain teachers, and
• Stipends for teachers who participate in after school or Saturday programs, which are designed to improve teaching and learning.
Though 12 percent of the Texas schools’ districts have some type of teacher incentive pay program, this is the first state program in almost 20 years. When Texas schools achieve exceptional results, the principals always give credit to their teachers and staffs. The Intent of the Governors excellence award program is to say a very sincere “thank you” to the teachers and staff who go the extra mile to help students succeed.