Over the past three years, I've had the pleasure of working, in one way or another, with more than 42 school districts that have received a federal Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant. TIF grants are designed to support state level departments of education, districts, charter schools, or non-profit organizations (in partnership with a state, district, or charter) with the design, implementation, evaluation, and continuous improvement of evaluation and strategic compensation systems that identify and reward teachers or principals for developing specific skills, knowledge or abilities; holding leadership roles; exceptional performance; or for working in hard-to-staff subjects or in high-need schools.
TIF, which is managed through the office of Academic Improvement and Teacher Quality Programs at the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE), was first introduced in 1996 by then-Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings to encourage the education community and others to look at teacher and principal compensation in a different way. Today, USDOE's goals for the program include:
1. Improve student achievement by increasing teacher and principal effectiveness;
2. Reform teacher and principal compensation systems so that teachers and principals are rewarded for increases in student achievement;
3. Increase the number of effective teachers teaching poor, minority, and disadvantaged students in hard-to-staff subjects; and
4. Creating sustainable performance-based compensation systems.
Three rounds of TIF grants have been distributed since 2007 through a competitive application process. TIF grants extend for five years once awarded. Round 1 awarded $99 million in 2007, and Round 2 awarded $97 million in 2008, which together provided funding for 33 projects across 109 districts in 18 states. In 2010, TIF Round 3 awarded $400 million to approximately 54 organizations across nine states.
TIF recipients in Rounds 1, 2, and 3 include Tennessee, Ohio, South Carolina, New York, South Dakota, among other states, as well as school districts, including Prince George's County Public Schools (MD), Miami-Dade County Public Schools (FL), Memphis City Schools (TN), Houston Independent School District (TX), Denver Public Schools (CO), Chicago Public Schools (IL), Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools (NC), Maricopa County (AZ), Pittsburgh Public Schools (PA), and Seattle Public Schools (WA).
TIF Round 4 was originally scheduled to begin in May 2011. However, before moving forward, US education officials decided that a review of the TIF program and past grantees was needed. This review is still ongoing. However, what is clear is that TIF has encouraged discussion and collaboration among teachers, school leaders, parents, policymakers, and other stakeholders in districts and states across the country around new ways to recognize, reward, and help educators improve their practice.
A great resource for districts interested in learning more about the program is the Center for Educator Compensation Reform (CECR). The group works to share information via their website pertaining to policy, programs, research, and districts' work around educator compensation systems.
I would also encourage education leaders interested in this grant to periodically check the USDOE's TIF website for up-to-date information about the 2012 program. I know many of the districts I work with do.