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Big gaps between teacher bonuses in different school districts this year

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -  This year, the amount of money teachers will receive based on their performance varies significantly based on where they work. Many educators are now asking the state to change the formula used to calculate these teacher performance grants.

One superintendent tells FOX59 that wealthier school districts got more of the money, while struggling school districts received less.

"The higher the poverty,  the lower the distribution of the grant," said Jeff Butts, superintendent at Metropolitan School District  of Wayne Township.

For example, a teacher at Carmel-Clay Schools is estimated to get more than $2,400. A teacher at Wayne Township is expected to get $42.

"We were a little bit surprised," Butts said. "The number was significantly lower than what we had expected."

Butts said the formula for the grants is flawed because it is too dependent on ISTEP scores, which are down across the state this year.

"The current performance grant awards student for passing the test - not growth," Butts said. "It’s really not a matter of how effective the teacher was."

He adds that teachers in districts like Wayne Township have more students dealing with issues like poverty, speak English as a second language or have special needs.

"We may not get that child to that standard at the end of their fourth grade year because they started so far back," Butts said.

Even the superintendent for the district getting the most money through the performance grants said he wants to see the formula tweaked.

"I believe there’s some equity issues with that," said Nick Wahl, superintendent of Carmel-Clay Schools.  "We would advocate, I would advocate,  the formula take into consideration more growth.”

The Indiana State Teacher's Association is taking a stand on this. The president posting this statement on their website:

“The performance grant data says a great deal about how policymakers value educators in Indiana. While educators at well-resourced schools performed well and received a much-deserved bonus, the educators teaching in some of the most challenging districts where socioeconomic factors can negatively impact student and school performance, were left out...This idea of teacher bonuses based largely on student test scores has always been based on a flawed premise and the allocation spreadsheet we’ve seen bears this out. We need high-quality educators to teach at our most challenged schools, and this distribution of bonuses certainly won’t compel them to do so. Our educators and our kids deserve better.”

Indiana state senator Ryan Mishler (R-District 9) said the gap was much bigger than estimated. He also said lawmakers are considering creating a second pool of money next year for high-performing teachers at low-performing schools.