Today is the day school districts across Idaho have to propose pay-for-performance plans as required by the controversial Students Come First education plan devised by State Superintendent Tom Luna and passed by the Idaho Legislature.

Districts have been given the choice of adopting the state’s plan to financially reward teachers for student achievement or devising their own formulas. Two of Canyon County’s larger districts have chosen different routes.

The Nampa School District proposed its own system that evaluates teachers district-wide, as opposed to on a school-by-school basis. The plan would pay teachers for performance based on the number of schools that make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), what percentage of students graduate, and how many of them attend class.

For teachers and administrators to get bonuses, their schools must meet state targets and the entire district would have to meet local targets. The more schools that make AYP, the higher the percentage of bonus pay.

The Vallivue District, on the other hand, opted to go with the state’s formula. Individual schools that show improvement based on the ISAT scores could get funds for teacher bonuses of $2,000 or more.

However, Vallivue officials say they expect to create their own formula next year because teachers didn’t have the time and energy to devise one by today.

Nampa’s idea is intended to prevent schools from competing against one another. It dovetails with one of the largest complaints teachers have expressed about the concept of merit pay and pay-for-performance — that some schools in some areas face a bigger challenge than ones in other parts of town. That kids in affluent areas, with parents who care, are more likely to respond to teachers than “at-risk” kids in poor areas with less positive parental supervision.

Nampa officials deserve credit for working on a plan that will help them meet the new state requirements — whether they like them or not — in a way most agreeable to the teachers. After all, they are the ones with their boots on the ground who actually perform the task of teaching our kids.

It’s no secret that many educators were not happy with Students Come First. Some were actively involved in the successful attempt to put the three laws up for a voter referendum in November 2012 and in the failed attempt to force a recall election of Luna.

Nonetheless, the laws have been passed and school districts must abide by them. Let’s hope all our districts can find the best method of doing so that works best for their individual, unique interests.

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