AUGUSTA, Maine — Seventeen schools in six districts across Maine will share nearly $25 million in federal grant money aimed at recognizing and rewarding great teachers and administrators, according to the Maine Department of Education.
The federal grant announced Saturday will be used to improve educator evaluation systems, reward effective teachers and principals and provide greater professional opportunities. Maine is one of two states and 33 school systems or nonprofits to be approved for the latest round of grants in the Maine Schools for Excellence program, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund.
The program and grants are aligned with the requirements of an educator effectiveness bill, An Act to Ensure Effective Teaching and School Leadership, which was signed into law following legislative approval in April. The new law requires school districts to develop or adopt teacher and leader evaluation systems designed to provide feedback to teachers and principals from peers, supervisors, students and parents.
“Both administrators and teachers want the same thing: fair and realistic measures for performance, professional development and help in improving teaching skills, and a system that rewards excellent teachers,” said Gov. Paul LePage in a press release. “This will allow more districts to engage in this work and more importantly, help them develop models that other Maine school districts can adopt or adapt for their needs.”
The districts that are to receive the funding are RSU 16 in the Poland area, RSU 19 in the Newport area, Millinocket, Bangor, MSAD 11 in Gardiner and RSU 86 in Fort Fairfield.
Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen said the program is crucial to other efforts by the Department of Education to improve standards, curricula, instruction practices and assessment.
“No other school-based factor is more important to learner outcomes than the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders,” said Bowen. “That’s why this work is so important, and why it’s so important to get it right.”
Participating districts will build performance pay compensation models based on the Maine Schools for Excellence program. Districts will have flexibility in terms of specific incentive amounts and criteria for payouts, according to the press release. Eighteen other schools in five school districts in Maine are already doing similar work through the program.
Correction: An early version of this story contained incorrect information from the Associated Press. Maine's Department of Education received almost $25 million over five years, not $8.8 million. That figure is what the Education Department is receiving the first year.