ImpactWinter 2011

CELL to oversee $33-million teacher development project

The University’s Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning has been selected to manage Indiana’s new $32.7-million effort to improve schools through a system of professional development, evaluation, and performance-based bonuses for teachers. The initiative is intended to boost student achievement while rewarding and retaining talented teachers in schools with high-need student populations.

CELL is administering the program on behalf of the Indiana Department of Education, which learned in September that it would receive the funding as part of a five-year federal effort to make teachers and principals more effective. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said CELL was selected for its track record of helping Indiana schools enact innovative models for improvement.

“Partnering with CELL for this initiative makes perfect sense,” Bennett said. “CELL is dedicated to preparing all students for success and is respected as a leading catalyst for dynamic 21st-century reform in Indiana schools.”
The Indiana initiative will use a system known as TAP™: the System for Teacher and Student Advancement, which was developed by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching and has taken root in Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and elsewhere around the country.

TAP includes elements that traditionally have raised concerns from teachers’ unions, including a rigorous evaluation process that uses standardized test scores as a partial basis for awarding bonus pay to teachers. However, the system is expected to win support from teachers with its other elements: ongoing professional development opportunities and a means for teachers to advance their careers by becoming “mentor” or “master” teachers, who will be paid higher salaries to lead their schools’ professional development efforts.

In Indiana, 44 schools in Indianapolis, Hammond, Goshen, Evansville, Marion, and other communities have agreed in principle to implement the system in fall 2011. They include charter and traditional public schools at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, all with more than 50 percent of their students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch.

“Based on the results we’ve seen elsewhere, these partner schools are poised to become leaders in improving education in Indiana,” CELL Executive Director David Dresslar said. “TAP gives teachers and principals the resources and incentives to strengthen their schools from within.”

Under the state contract, CELL Fellow for Strategic Initiatives Jennifer Oliver will serve as the statewide TAP director, acting as liaison between NIET and the participating schools. Among other functions, CELL will coordinate site visits and training sessions and set up a network for sharing information among the participating schools.

The new program adds to the portfolio of statewide education reform efforts supported by CELL, including Indiana’s networks of schools implementing the innovative New Tech and Early College high school models.

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