With many schools in the state scratching their heads at implementing a new, state-mandated model for teacher evaluations and compensation, Greencastle Community Schools forged ahead, creating its own model.
The Indiana Department of Education noticed, announcing Thursday that Greencastle is among the 28 districts receiving Excellence in Performance for Teachers grants for 2012.
Greencastle Community Schools will receive a $166,437 grant, all of which will go toward performance-based teacher compensation by August or September.
The state awarded $6 million combined to the 28 districts.
"In Greencastle, it was a wonderful collective effort to move as we did, to be able to create the evaluation piece," Greencastle Superintendent Dr. Lori Richmond said. "Administrators and teachers met hours and hours to create the evaluation piece that would be meaningful in the classroom, that would help shine the excellence in education and show areas that need to be improved. Greencastle has wonderful teaching and learning happening every day and this grant helps us to promote that and to honor all those who work to make that happen every day.
"I'm just glad we get to honor our very best teachers. We have some extra funds so that they know they are appreciated in their hard work and continued efforts."
All schools in the state learned last year of the new performance-based model of teacher evaluation. The state developed the RISE model of evaluation that all schools will have to begin implementing for the 2012-13 academic year.
However, with the knowledge the new evaluation model would soon be mandated, schools had the choice to implement the evaluation process early.
"Schools had to make a decision whether they wanted to go on board sooner than later," Richmond said. "If you did and completed all the processes and moved forward with it, you would have been eligible to apply."
Among the 70 districts that applied for the grant, those that went above and beyond the RISE model stood out.
"RISE only became our base because our model went even higher, which the DOE really appreciated. Once we got that done, we had a vote and we had a 100 percent approval rating," Richmond said.
"After that we had to come up with a compensation model of how we would use it," she added. "The teachers are getting highly effective, effective -- different ratings for different things. We took all of that and we had to build a compensation model and we took that back to our teachers for approval as well."
All of this was done by December, when the grant application was due. With the start of the new semester came the implementation phase. So far, the effort had been on the part of faculty. Now the students were involved.
"Every student had to create two student learning objectives, which are data-based objectives which then get wrapped into evaluations," Richmond said.
"It's just a whole new model, a whole new way of doing things. And that took a collective team effort to help everyone learn it. We're one of the few districts that is that far ahead. We had to forge ahead into new territory."
As part of the reward, Greencastle school leaders were among those honored by Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett Thursday morning at the Statehouse.
"Great teachers change lives," Dr. Bennett said. "This grant program lets us support schools in their efforts to identify, develop, recruit and retain highly effective teachers. There is a dramatic culture shift happening in our schools. Teachers and school leaders are working together to build evaluation and compensation systems that reflect our unwavering commitment to excellent instruction for Indiana's students. This program lets us highlight those who are leading this charge."
The Excellence in Performance for Teachers grant was established by the Indiana General Assembly during the 2011 legislative session in an effort help school corporations and charter schools recruit and retain effective educators.
A Putnam County lawmaker spoke specifically about the efforts he sees going on in Greencastle.
"I want to congratulate Greencastle Community Schools for receiving this award," said Rep. Jim Baird Baird (R-Greencastle). "I know it is because of the administration's and teachers' hard work and dedication to their students that this award was earned. It is through great teachers that we produce great students and I am glad we can congratulate the teachers of Greencastle Community Schools on a job well done."
Grant winners were selected based on satisfying legal standards as well as the quality of the school corporation's performance evaluation system in terms of ability to accurately differentiate teacher effectiveness, provide meaningful feedback to employees, and to support, develop and retain excellent teachers.