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Report: Teacher incentive program needs more performance data

Alabama leaders have spent more than $98 million on a relatively new incentive program to get more qualified math and science teachers in public school classrooms, but more information will be required to measure its impact, according to a recent report.

The Teacher Excellence and Accountability for Mathematics and Science program was approved by the Legislature and Gov. Kay Ivey in 2021. It gives math and science teachers an additional $15,000 per year if they complete specialized STEM certification. There’s also an additional $5,000 for educators willing to serve in hard-to-staff schools.

While only two years old, the program needs more structure and goals, according to a July report from the Alabama Commission on the Evaluation of Services. It said the program “lacks defined goals, and maintains vague performance metrics.”

“We’ve got to get the data to understand and make sure it’s having a positive impact,” Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, told Alabama Daily News. “If we’re paying everybody $15,000 more and not getting a yield or return on that additional investment, then we will need to reconsider what we’re doing.”

Orr co-chairs the commission and is the Senate education budget committee chairman. He said he recently sent the Alabama State Department of Education a letter asking it to track changes in student performance under TEAMS teachers.

In 2021, about 34% of Alabama students were proficient in science and about
22% were proficient in math.

“When we passed the law, we didn’t put the reporting requirements in that we probably should have,” Orr said.

State Superintendent Eric Mackey told ADN that even though TEAMS is newly implemented, it’s already shown a positive impact on the number and quality of math and science teachers in classrooms.

“The State Department of Education appreciates the findings and recommendations offered by the Alabama Commission on the Evaluation of Services,” Mackey said in an emailed statement. “Collaboration between state agencies helps ensure the effectiveness of TEAMS. ALSDE conducted internal reviews to ensure continuous improvement and arrived at many of the same opportunities as ACES. The TEAMS program is working. Alabama now has more high-quality math and science teachers than ever before. We look for continued success and will make any positive changes necessary.”

In the first year, 2,608 teachers signed TEAMS contracts, according to the report, but more information is needed to determine the number of highly qualified teachers in schools prior to 2020-2021.

The program could also be made better for teachers, the ACES’ report said, noting the enrollment process “is characterized by a labor-intensive process which can be significantly streamlined through widely available technology.”

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