The program, funded by a grant created by the Utah State Legislature, pays math teachers whose students increase their test scores. The results of the first year of the three year program were reported to the San Juan School Board on November 7.
Bonuses totaling $35,500 were paid to 16 teachers in the school district. The maximum amount a teacher can earn is $5,000.
District officials state that the one-year results are positive and are anxious to see what happens in subsequent years.
“The interesting results will be over the three-year time frame,” said Ron Nielson, the supervisor of schools in the San Juan School District.
Each student is tested in the spring in a number of measures. Test results are reported in four levels, ranging from minimal mastery of the concepts to mastery.
The incentive program pays the teacher if a student’s test score increases to another level. Students at the top, who stay at the top, can also earn the teacher a bonus. In addition, teachers face a penalty if a score drops.
Overall, math scores for fourth through sixth grade students increased across the district. The results in some schools are dramatic.
The percentage of students, now in the sixth grade, who scored at the mastery level at Mexican Hat Elementary increased from 14 percent in 2006 to 47 percent in 2007. Significant increases in test performance were made in 12 of the 15 class groups tested.
Teachers have reported that the program made them aware of the needs of every student, from the lowest to the highest performers.
Nielson reports that the San Juan program is the most aggressive incentive program in the state, the only one based upon the results of test scores. It is simply designed to offer a cash bonus to math teachers if test scores rise.