WTHR NBC, April 11, 2017, by Rich Van Wyk (no longer available online)
INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – Here’s an idea to improve schools and teachers. Pay exceptional teachers more money.
Give them the responsibility of helping other teachers and keep them from quitting to take better paying jobs.
Indianapolis Public schools is trying to do just that and getting recognition from the National Council on Teacher Quality.
At Lew Wallace elementary school, Kellie Brotherton is so much more than a typical elementary teacher “I am a multi-classroom leader.” She said with a smile.
She and others in the program are considered classroom superstars, exceptional or highly effective. “I like both.” Brotherton laughed “I like both.”
IPS has 14 educators in the Opportunity Culture Teacher program. They have the serious task of leading and helping teachers help students catch up and overcome some daunting challenges.
Students at the west side elementary school come from 33 different countries. They speak 24 different languages, and every year one half of them enroll or leave the school.
On most days, Brotherton moves through 9 classrooms, working with students, while giving teachers help, suggestions and new ideas. “From a different view point.” Brotherton said “In ways they might not see from the inside out, and I can see from the inside in.”
Angela Spencer, teaching or 16-years admitted that she learned more than a few things, and so did her students. “From like 30 percent to almost 79 percent growth in their reading skills.” She said “It’s been great. And we are trying to get to 80 percent”
Principal Jeremy Baugh is sold on the program “Sometimes they need a little wake up call.” He said “Oh my gosh this is what exceptional teaching looks like. It means great teachers, more great teachers in front of our kids and more opportunities for growth.”
Only about of the students pass Indiana’s state mandated ISTEP+ exams.
But the school is among the fastest improving schools in IPS.
Lew Wallace’s called state issued “growth” grade has climbed from an F to a B in just 3 years.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Baugh said. “It is extraordinary, it really is.”
For taking on the additional responsibilities, exceptional teachers earn as much as an additional 18 thousand dollars. That money and additional responsibility are incentives. That is an incentive to keep them teaching. Otherwise they might quite for better paying jobs.
“It is providing excellent teachers with an opportunity to still work directly in the classroom but still take on more of a leadership responsibility.” Brotherton said. And earn more money? “Because we need to keep good teachers.” She answered.
Lew Wallace and its students have a lot of catching up to do but appears to have a working game plan to help get them there.