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US grant funds $20,000 teacher bonuses at 'high-need' LA schools

Deasy walks campus

Tami Abdollah/KPCC

LAUSD plans to give $20,000 bonuses to up to 80 "effective" science, technology, math, engineering and special ed teachers who agree to teach at 40 high-need schools under a new federal grant.

Los Angeles Unified Schools Superintendent John Deasy said that a $49 million federal grant awarded to the district this week to improve teacher effectiveness will help pay for a new multiple-measure teacher evaluation system and more professional development programs, including a bonus for certain teachers at high-need schools.

The five-year grant includes an initial $16 million; more money would follow based on availability and the district's progress. The grant award details say the school district can use Teacher Incentive Fund grants to support performance-based pay for effective principals and teachers in 40 "high-need schools." 

The district plans to use effective educators as coaches and models for their peers' professional development. Teachers who are experts in their subjects will provide coaching based on information from the evaluation.

L.A. Unified also aims to increase the number of effective teachers in the STEM subject areas (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) at high-need schools. The district will give $20,000 recruitment bonuses to up to 80 effective or highly effective STEM and special education teachers who agree to teach at the high-need schools.

"It's trying to address a national problem around teacher distribution and making sure high-need schools are getting access to the most effective teachers," said Drew Furedi, the executive director of L.A. Unified's Talent Management Division. Furedi led the team that wrote the grant.

He said teachers in other subject areas depending on the school's needs may also receive bonuses.

The 40 "high-need" schools have not yet been identified by the district, Furedi said. L.A. Unified is working on developing criteria and an application process to identify schools for the grant program, Furedi said.

"Almost every school we've got would fit into that" federal grant defintion of a high-need school, Furedi said.

Deasy said in a statement Friday that the district will work to strengthen its partnership with higher education institutions so it can improve teacher and administrator training.

“We have established a national reputation for being on the cutting-edge of teacher effectiveness strategies,” Deasy said.

“With the support of the TIF grant, we will enhance the quality of teaching at the LAUSD and provide superior learning to our students now and in the future."

L.A. Unified has piloted a teacher evaluation system that factors in students' standardized test scores despite opposition from the teachers' union. The district is in negotiations to develop a new performance-based review system by a court-imposed deadline of Dec. 4; the administrators' union reached a one-year agreement earlier this month but is negotiating a long-term solution.

L.A. Unified was one of 35 districts or charters in the nation to receive the grants announced Thursday. New York City Public Schools received a grant of nearly $53 million to target about 70 high-need schools.

This story has been updated.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).

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