Delhi schools earn $8.1 million federal grant

09/27/2012 3:29 PM

09/27/2012 11:55 PM

The U.S. Department of Education awarded Delhi Unified $8.1 million Thursday to train its 110 teachers, expand their role and institute incentive pay based in part on growth in student achievement.

The small district southeast of Turlock was the only California school district outside of Los Angeles Unified to receive one of the 35 Teacher Incentive Fund grants awarded nationwide this year. Los Angeles Unified, with roughly 45,000 teachers, received $49.2 million.

The charter group Aspire Public Schools also received a grant for $27.9 million to help 29 of its schools, including Summit Charter Academy and Vanguard College Preparatory Academy in the Modesto area. Its University Charter in Modesto did not qualify. Aspire's grant will include incentive pay for teachers in special education and enrichment subjects, and developing leadership paths for teachers.

"These funds will allow us to continue and expand the important work we are doing to support our teachers and principals," said James Willcox, Aspire chief executive officer.

The five-year grants target high-needs schools, aiming to increase effectiveness of teachers and principals, and create sustainable performance-based compensation systems, according to the Department of Education.

Lost training days return

In announcing the awards, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the best teachers and principals "are invaluable leaders in changing life outcomes for students. They are desperately needed in our struggling schools, and they deserve to be recognized, rewarded, and given the opportunity to have a greater influence on their colleagues, students and in their communities."

Sue Gomes, Delhi director of curriculum and instruction, called the award "absolutely amazing."

Delhi will use some of the money to bring back teacher training days this school year, but will not bring back the five school days lost to budget cuts, Gomes said. "Next year, we hope to bring back the student instruction days," she said.

Among the training topics for Delhi are English learner strategies, using tests to tailor teaching by student and shifting to common core curriculum.

The district began working on the application nearly a year ago and held 50 to 60 meetings to make it happen, she said. Delhi Teachers Association members were at those meetings and helped develop the incentive pay system, which counts student improvement as about 30 percent of its measure, she said.

About half of Delhi's approximately 2,700 students are learning English, and nearly 93 percent fall under state poverty guidelines, Gomes said.

California Department of Education records show 38 percent of parents did not graduate from high school and only 4 percent have college degrees.

The district has three schools with kindergarten through eighth grades, one high school and a continuation high school. The three elementary schools were put on a federal watch list last year after failing to meet performance targets under No Child Left Behind.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339.

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