New IPS teachers contract pays bonuses based on performance

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

Teachers in Indianapolis Public Schools who were rated “effective” last fall can earn a $1,500 one-time pay bonus under a new contract approved Tuesday by the school board.

The deal did not include traditional, across-the-board raises that board member and union officials had said they hoped teachers would receive. Some IPS teachers have gone five years without a raise. The agreement is also well short of the total rethinking of how teachers are paid that board members and Superintendent Lewis Ferebee have said they want to explore.

But Ferebee said the contract represents progress toward those goals for the cash-strapped district’s nearly 2,500 teachers.

“It’s a move in the right direction,” Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said. “We want to do as much as we can for teachers. This builds on an opportunity … so in the future we can do more.”

The new contract is built on a series of compromises between the union, for which more pay was a top priority, and the board, which sought flexibility:

  • The $1,500 “loyalty bonus” would be paid this fall to those deemed “highly effective” or “effective” based on their 2013-14 evaluations who returned to teach in IPS.
  • Instead of higher starting salaries for new teachers, the contract allows for flexibility to hire some teachers at higher rates than others based on their ability to teach a high-need subject or willingness to work in a low-performing school.
  • The district will stop its practice of paying more to teachers with advanced degrees, but those who already earn a higher salary because of a master’s degree or doctorate degree will continue to do so.
  • Teachers will have a chance to earn $5,000 stipends for taking on more responsibility, such as developing curriculum.
  • Health insurance premiums will cost employees more, but the district will pay the difference this year so teachers don’t have more out-of-pocket costs.

Union president Rhondalyn Cornett said she was satisfied overall with the outcome of the negotiations, which started Aug. 1.

“Teachers are stepping up and doing more things all the time,” she said. “It’s about time they get compensated for it. We wanted to see (an increase to the base salary), but the district explained it was a recurring cost.”

Most of IPS’ teachers are expected to earn the $1,500 bonus, although teachers rated as ineffective and those who need improvement won’t be eligible. Just five of the district’s teachers were rated ineffective in 2012-13 according to data released by the state this spring. Teacher effectiveness ratings from last school year haven’t been publicly released yet.

A controversial 2011 state law now requires teacher pay to be linked to merit, meaning teachers will be paid partly based on their students’ performance, including their scores on the state ISTEP test. This contract will be the first one IPS has negotiated since that took effect.

Meanwhile, IPS and other school districts have been tasked with overhauling their teacher evaluation systems, a process that the district is just starting to work on with IUPUI.

“Our hope is to continue to find more money to put into the pot,” board member Caitlin Hannon said. “We can do some creative things. We still have a long way to go to attract and retain the best talent.”

Board member Gayle Cosby, a former teacher, was the lone vote against approving the contract. She said the district should have done more to increase teacher pay.

“I realize that might not be the best position from a financial standpoint,” Cosby said. “It’s probably advantageous to take it slower, but I really had high hopes of better pay for teachers at this point.”

Cosby was also disappointed with that the district moved away from extra pay for teachers who earn advanced degrees. State law now requires that not more than a third of teacher raises can be based on additional degrees they earned.

“I would have preferred if we could find some happy medium, or some other way to celebrate educational attainment,” Cosby said.

But Hannon said that will allow the district to save millions of dollars over the long run as teachers retire, which it could then use to pay for higher starting salaries for teachers.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”