Awarded to help with teacher development

Lindsay Unified School District is one of 14 organizations in the United States to be awarded the Teacher School Leader Incentive grant, which will provide up to $28 million over three years to recruit and broaden the skill sets of its teachers and provide operating support for the Empower learning program. The announcement was made at a press conference at the Lindsay District Office on Friday morning.

“It is with incredible enthusiasm and a deep commitment to our Lindsay community and learners that we announce this opportunity,” said Tom Rooney, LUSD superintendent. “There is an incredible team of principals, learning facilitators, and an entire board of education that are completely committed to realizing the vision for learning in Lindsay.”

The school district received its first funds from the grant on Oct. 1, and initial plans include creating a comprehensive action plan for how the first year’s installment of $10.4 million will be used throughout the district.

“Our plan is to implement a comprehensive professional development and incentive program that will ensure that every Lindsay learner is served only by the highest quality teacher and only the highest quality leader,” said Rooney.

In addition to providing ongoing development of Lindsay’s learning management system, Empower, grant funding will create several programs that will improve the skills of current teachers and provide incentive for prospective educators to work for the district.

Staff will participate in an additional 20 days per year of professional development training, covering topics such as the use of technology, project-based learning, English learners, leadership, and labs on learner-based education.

A $10,000 signing bonus will be available for any teacher willing to teach at the district and make it through their probationary period, as well as performance pay for teachers who demonstrate competence and produce results in academic achievement.

It creates opportunities and funding for district teachers to obtain a master’s in technology and customized learning, and there will also be funding and pathway support for selected Lindsay High School graduates to receive their bachelor’s and teaching credential with a commitment to return and teach in the district.

“These opportunities will not only prepare our teachers and leaders to most effectively serve our learners, but it will essentially catapult the entire vision for learning that is unfolding here in Lindsay to an even broader scale and greater influence outside the walls of our schools,” said Rooney.

The new measures will support and advance Lindsay’s nationally-recognized performance-based system, a comprehensive approach to learning organized around engaging students in developing 21st century skills while having them work at their performance level and advancing through the learning only when they have demonstrated proficiency of the required knowledge or skills. The district adopted the performance-based system in 2007 after many years of low academic performance throughout the district.

LUSD’s history of receiving and successfully implementing federal grants made them a strong candidate to receive the TSL grant. They were previously recipients of the 21st Century Community Learning grant, the Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant in 2011, and in 2012 were awarded a $10 million Race to the Top grant, which the district used to implement their Empower system, which uses education technology products, consulting, and services to enhance instruction in the their classrooms.

The Teacher School Leader (TSL) program is a funding opportunity made available through the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement. It builds on the former Teacher Incentive Fund program and promotes performance-based compensation and comprehensive human capital management systems for teachers, principals, and other school leaders.

The projects have served over 2,000 schools in more than 300 urban, suburban, and rural school districts in 36 states and Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Department of Education will disburse a total of $88 million to the 14 TSL award winners in the first year. Full distribution of the grant’s allotted funds are contingent on a variety of criteria, including effective program implementation, reporting on fund usage, and benchmark achievements.

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