Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pittsburgh School Board Approves $40 mil. Gates Grant

Earlier this year Pittsburgh was one of ten school districts and charter school groups selected to apply for a portion of the $500 million fund created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote teacher effectiveness. In September they were revealed to be one of four chosen to receive money, and last night the school board voted to approve a $40 million grant, which is a part of a more than $85 million effort to change the way teachers are hired, trained, evaluated and compensated. John Tarka, head of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers says they have been behind the project from the beginning. He acknowledges that the similar programs have been opposed in other districts, but he's confident that Pittsburgh teachers will be supportive after the collective bargaining nuts and bolts have been worked out. He says Pittsburgh has some great teachers and they are looking forward to harnessing those skills and replicating them across the district.

The teacher effectiveness initiative will include a teacher training academy, introduce pay for performance and incentive based pay for teachers who choose to tackle difficult assignments. It would also rework the tenure system and introduce more outreach for teacher recruitment.

Hillsborough County, Florida, Memphis Tennessee and Los Angeles College-Ready Promise charter schools have also been chosen for the grant.

“Each of these sites will implement groundbreaking approaches to recruit, retain and reward effective teachers,” Gates Foundation Co-Founder Melinda Gates said. She added that this is the largest domestic investment the Gates Foundation has made since its inception in 2000.

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