The Life School Teacher Incentive Initiative is implementing a teacher and principal performance-based compensation system (PBCS) that uses student achievement as a primary indicator of effective teacher and principal performance. In the first four years, the compensation system provided for bonus awards to educators meeting the effectiveness criteria in the evaluation system. In Year 5, the compensation system may provide for base salary increases. The PBCS also offers stipends to those teachers taking on leadership roles that offer job-embedded professional development. Life School serves over 5,000 students at eight locations across the Dallas region. Each location has a large population of students who receive free or reduced-price lunch. The highest-need campuses have struggled to make Adequate Yearly Progress.
Life School's primary goal of the TIF project is to implement a sustainable teacher and principal PBCS that uses valid and reliable measures of student achievement as a primary indicator of effective teacher and principal performance, thereby increasing the number of Highly Effective teachers and principals at the targeted campuses. Project objectives include establishing support and commitment for the PBCS; adopting differentiated levels of compensation; improving the capacity of educators; implementing a fair, rigorous, and objective process to evaluate teacher and principal performance; and improving students' academic achievement in core subject areas. Life School contracted with an external researcher to conduct a formative and summative evaluation of the program.
During Year 1, Life School's primary focus was designing and updating the project evaluation system and PBCS. Life School developed an in-depth description of the main components of the evaluation system. In addition, Life School developed a communication strategy, hired project staff, contracted with vendors, engaged with partners, and established an Advisory Council. Life School also developed the evaluation system; the PBCS; five-year objectives, measures, and targets; a communications plan; and professional development plan.
In Year 2, Life Schools hired a program manager to assist in the execution of the TIF grant. It also launched the pilot PBCS with one elementary school and one secondary school. It developed its student growth model to be scalable, as it rolled out the PBCS to the remaining Title I schools in SY 2014-15. In addition, Life School also hired a curriculum coordinator to manage the student learning objective process for all nontested subject teachers and a professional development coordinator to manage all professional development. This year also saw the establishment of Life School U, a central repository for all professional development offered at Life School.
The Life School U team members have begun creating custom professional development based on the immediate needs of the staff. Life School U also hosted a trainer certification course for 20 nominated Life School staff members.
Year 3 provided many highlights for Life School/TIF. After a successful pilot of the performance measurement system at a single K-12 Life School campus during Year 2, Year 3 focused on the systemwide implementation of the employee performance measurement system and PBCS. The pilot year (Year 2) included only 110 staff members at a single location. However, Year 3 included 440 staff members across all campuses. Additionally, a post-grant sustainability plan was created and approved. And, Life School adopted a new learning management system to support its professional development plan called Life School U.
In Year 4, Life Schools implemented the performance measurement system and PBCS at all campuses and included, for the first time, all district-level administrators. The entire school system is now measured under a single, aligned performance measurement system. Additionally, Life School continues to produce professional development to support its performance measurement system and Life School U, the districtwide mission and vision-driven professional development system.
Year 5 will serve as a monitoring year. As TIF 4 ends, we will begin to weigh what changes we want to make in Year 6. We will review in depth each component of the system and compare it to staff feedback and feedback from our program evaluators to determine how to proceed in the coming years. Overall, we have seen great success with our system and look forward to continuing to improve it as necessary.
Payout for Year 2, which was close to $1 million, occurred in December of 2015. Payout for Year 3 will take place in December of 2016.