Late start Wednesdays for Caledonia Schools?

By Emily Bialkowski

Caledonia Argus

 

Keeping up with state education mandates and finding the funds to do so takes work. The Caledonia School District is attempting to find funds to cover the expense of a new teacher training and evaluation mandate set to go into effect next year.

The state is saying teachers need job-embedded professional development and better evaluations. It takes time and money to get teachers such practical training, so the district is proactively applying to become part of the state’s  Quality Compensation for Teachers program, or Q Comp.

What’s the catch?

The catch is that Q Comp will give the district $169 per pupil unit if it adheres to all kinds of standards. Q Comp will also allow the district to seek further taxpayer funding to the tune of $91 per pupil unit, but that would have to be approved by referendum.

What are the rules?

Q Comp has five mandated components, including:

1. Career ladders 

Career advancement options become available for leaders and mentors. For example a teacher can earn extra pay for taking on a leadership role.

2. Job-embedded professional development 

At least 60 minutes a week will be set aside for teachers to collaborate and train.

3. Teacher observation/evaluation

Each teacher will be evaluated three times per year by more than one person every year.

4. Performance pay

Q Comp doesn’t adjust teacher salaries. It does, however, offer teachers the opportunity to be rewarded for good work.

For example:

• A teacher achieving a 75 percent or better in all evaluation areas will earn a $500 stipend.

• If your school building meets its goal, an additional $250 is available.

• Each teacher will create their own goal, based on student achievement, and become eligible for an additional $250 for that effort if successful.

5. Alternative or reformed salary scheduled   

Currently, teachers earn more pay based on years of service and education. Under Q Comp teachers earn their way up a salary scheduled by doing well on their evaluation and taking on leadership roles.

 

Why Q Comp

Caledonia Superintendent Ben Barton discussed Q Comp in detail at the Feb. 21 school board meeting. The program can offer Caledonia money to pay for what will be forced upon all districts in terms of teacher evaluation and training next year. Schools who choose not to join Q Comp will need to fund teacher training and evaluations on their own.

“Why is the state focusing on this,” Barton asked rhetorically. “They are looking for improved teacher effectiveness,” he said.

Last year 52 school districts participated in Q Comp, as did 56 charter schools.

As stated earlier, Q Comp gives districts $169 per pupil unit for following the guidelines. It also allows districts to ask for an additional $91 per pupil from taxpayers.

That money helps pay for teacher training, evaluation and incentive compensation. In Caledonia, the $169 adds up to about $118,000.

“That sounds great but what comes with that is reform and accountability in what we do,” Barton said. “It’s about compensating people for good work. It’s an opportunity for our district to build structure and teacher development.”

Part of that reform includes an hour per week — during the school day — devoted to teacher development. That’s where late start Wednesdays come in. The state says this development has to occur during the school day, and the committee studying Q Comp in Caledonia has researched many options.

“When we’re talking about options we looked at all kinds of them,” School board member Kelley McGraw said. “We had the opportunity to talk to several districts that do it.”

Before anyone in the room could react, Barton implored the audience to consider the totality of the picture. “Please, everybody, this is not gospel,” he said, adding that nothing is set in stone.

Q Comp committee member and teacher Janelle Field Rohrer said, “Keep in mind that so much of it will need to be done no matter what, and we need to find money to do it.”

The district did send a 75-page application to participate in Q Comp to the state, who must approve it. Then teachers and the school board each vote to participate.

Barton warned that Caledonia is still in the nascent stages of developing its program. The committee has met a total of five, full school days to hammer details out, but there’s still a lot of work ahead.

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