Noting that more than just teachers play a role in student performance, Burr Ridge Elementary District 180 is looking to award education support personnel for pupil growth.
Nonteachers, such as custodians, secretaries and teachers aides, have the opportunity to get a little extra cash from the school district if student growth hits certain benchmarks. For example, if student growth on tests between fall and spring registers at the 75 percent level at either Anne M. Jeans School or Burr Ridge Middle School, education support personnel will receive a $150 bonus.
Superintendent Thomas Schneider said the program is based on comparing scores for an entire school, not individual students. Students take measurement tests in September and based on those tests are given a RIT score, which is an estimation of a student’s instructional level and also measures student progress. When students are tested again in the spring, it is then determined if they hit their RIT score.
Last school year, 432 tests were given at Jeans and 464 at the middle school. Last spring, 48 percent of Jeans students hit their anticipated RIT score; that number jumped to 64 percent for BRMS.
The achievement bonus is a way to thank support staff for their effort, Schneider said, adding while it may be groundbreaking for this area the program has been used in other parts of the country.
“We stole some good ideas like every good educator does,” Schneider laughed. “We tried to steal from the best to create a plan that would work for student growth.”
The district’s 60 education support personnel will each net $150 if 75 percent of students in the Burr Ridge school system hit their RIT score. That bonus can grow to $175 for 80 percent growth up to $250 for 100 percent growth.
“At the end of the year, it may wind up being more headaches than it is worth or that the staff really likes it,” Schneider said. “It is something we wanted to do to recognize teachers aides and other support personnel.”
Schneider noted because of the current teachers contract, no bonuses will be given to teachers for student growth.
“Could this be expanded to teachers? I can’t say,” Schneider stated. “We have to see how effective we think it is in increasing student growth.”
He said by looking at a whole school’s scores rather than comparing individual’s scores from year to year it takes into account students who transfer in and who transfer out of the district. Schneider said it is not always the same group of kids taking the tests in fall and spring so comparison of an individual’s scores can fall short.
Education support personnel included in the bonus program are paraprofessional aides, teaching assistants, health clerks, early childhood aides, library aides, drivers, full-time secretaries, food-service personnel and custodians.
“It is for a sense of teamwork,” Schneider said. “Teachers aides have the same goal as teachers, to show student growth.”
The superintendent said he is not sure how much other districts are watching to see if the program can roll over to their school systems.
“They could be sitting there and laughing at me,”Schneider said. “But this is something we wanted to do for us, something we wanted to do for our ESP staff.”