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For Immediate Release: November 10, 2010
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

Incentive program pays $1.7 million to South Dakota teachers

Special payments of more than $1.7 million were recently distributed to the staffs in 10 school districts as part of the South Dakota INCENTIVESplus program.

The program rewards teachers, principals and paraprofessionals in schools that demonstrate increased student achievement by reaching adequate yearly progress goals or by using a statistically significant, value-added growth model.

A five-year, $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education is used to provide the payments.

In the 10 participating school districts, 787 educators in 38 out of 47 schools received incentive funds this fall. Teachers were paid a $2,565 bonus; principals got $4,560 and paraprofessionals received $1,254.

INCENTIVESplus targets educators in high-need schools in mainly rural areas where it is oftentimes difficult to recruit and retain qualified teachers due to a lack of resources and geographic disparity. Because payments are given on a school-wide basis, the program fosters teamwork among teachers and lets all educators know they are an important piece of the puzzle.

“Teaching is not about the money; it is about the students. But more often than not, teachers don’t get much recognition for what they do and for the time that they put into education,” said White River Middle School teacher Helen Schwarting. “The INCENTIVESplus award is a recognition that we are on the right track and praised for a job well done. It gives us the opportunity to celebrate.”

At the core of INCENTIVESplus is the Building Leadership Team. This school-based team, including the principal and teacher-leaders, engages in a collaborative, data-driven process to focus instruction on identified learning needs. The team takes the lead role in developing and nurturing the environment associated with a professional learning community. As a result of the team's activities, instruction is focused and teaching staff is committed.

The program also offers opportunities for educators to receive individual awards by participating in identified professional development activities. A third financial component addresses recruitment issues by allowing participating school districts the opportunity to provide new teachers in high-need areas with one-time bonuses after satisfactorily completing their first year.

Currently in its fourth year, South Dakota INCENTIVESplus has paid a total of nearly $7 million to educators in participating districts.

Participating school districts include:

· Andes Central

· Belle Fourche

· Bennett County

· McLaughlin

· Oelrichs

· Shannon County

· Smee

· Todd County

· White River

· Winner