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Request for Waiver - Letter from Superintendent

April 20, 2012

Dear Assistant Secretary Yudin:

In Hillsborough County, we are implementing reform efforts through our Empowering Effective Teachers initiative that will ensure each child we serve is instructed by a highly effective teacher. The plans we have put in place align with the priorities that Secretary Duncan and his staff have established through Race to the Top, School Improvement, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act guidance. As we move forward, the biggest challenge that we face as a district is to create and maintain a stable fiscal support structure that directly aligns with these reform priorities. In order to establish this fiscal support structure, flexibility on the use of our district’s Title I funds is needed.

Currently, there is a provision in the authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that places a cap of five percent on the amount of Title I dollars that can be allocated for financial incentives and rewards for the purpose of recruiting and retaining effective teachers to schools that are in need of improvement, corrective action or restructuring. We are requesting a waiver of the five percent cap on financial incentives and rewards to effectively recruit and retain teachers in schools that are in need of improvement, corrective action or restructuring. The approval of this waiver would allow the district flexibility to expend more than five percent of its Title I, Part A funds for financial incentives and rewards for the 2012/2013 school year and maintain the level of fiscal support to our schools facing the greatest challenges.

On the proceeding pages, I have provided specific information that is required based on the guidance associated with the federal waiver process.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any clarifying questions, or you may contact Jeff Eakins, our district’s General Director for Federal Programs, at (813) 272-4475. Thank you in advance for your consideration of this important request for our district.

Sincerely,

MaryEllen Elia
Superintendent

Waiver Being Requested from the United States Department of Education

Federal Program affected by the requested Waiver

Title I, Part A

Statutory or regulatory requirement for which the waiver is sought / describe how the waiver will increase the quality of instruction for students and improve the academic achievement of students

Section 1113 (c) (4) Financial Incentives and Rewards Reservation

As part of Hillsborough County Public School’s (HCPS) Empowering Effective Teachers initiative, we are aggressively recruiting and retaining highly effective teachers at 43 of our district’s elementary and secondary schools that have the highest concentrations of poverty and are either in need of improvement, corrective action or restructuring due to their inability to meet the federal adequate yearly progress benchmark. Differential pay is awarded to teachers who meet all evaluation, professional development, and certification requirements. Incentive pay is awarded to teachers whose school meets proficiency and growth targets. Additional pay is awarded to teachers whose students make significant individual growth. This project includes extensive professional development requirements for each teacher. Individual Professional Development Plans are completed by each teacher based on student data. In order to receive the differential and incentive pay, each teacher must complete all activities detailed in his/her Individual Professional Development Plan. All professional development is supported at the school site with the hiring of content area coaches who follow up with teachers to determine instructional effectiveness. This waiver would allow HCPS to budget appropriate funds to continue our efforts to recruit and retain our district’s best teachers at the schools where students face the greatest challenges.

Describe for each school year, specific measurable educational goals, in accordance with section 1111(b) of the ESEA, for the SEA and for each LEA, Indian tribe, or school that would be affected by the waiver and the methods to be used to measure annual progress for meeting those goals

In order to determine schools and teachers eligible to receive financial incentives and rewards, HCPS uses student data gathered from the SEA’s Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). This assessment has been approved by the USDE as part of the state’s Accountability Workbook and is used to provide school grade and adequate yearly progress data. The district has established the following educational goals in order to determine the annual progress of each of the 43 schools impacted by this initiative for the 2012/2013 school year:

  1. In accordance with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, each school’s reading and math proficiency data will reflect at least a two percentage point increase over the prior year.
  2. Each school impacted by this waiver will exceed 50% of its bottom quartile students making annual learning gains in reading or math as measured by the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
  3. By the conclusion of the 2012/2013 school year, each teacher eligible for the recruitment and retention incentive pay will complete 100% of all professional development activities detailed in his/her Individual Professional Development Plan..
  4. By the conclusion of the 2012/2013 school year, each teacher eligible for the recruitment and retention incentive pay will receive a satisfactory or higher evaluation rating. This score is weighted 30% on a principal’s evaluation, 30% on a peer teacher evaluation, and 40% on student data results.
  5. Each teacher eligible for the recruitment and retention incentive pay must be highly qualified in the area he/she instructs students based on a review of certification records.

To measure annual progress and determine effectiveness, this project will be evaluated after the 2011/2012 school year by the district’s federal programs evaluator. Criteria to be included in the evaluation include:

How will this waiver assist the affected schools in reaching their goals?

Thirty-seven of the schools included in this project have a poverty rate of above 90%. Four of the schools are above 80%, and two schools are above 75% poverty. All schools are either in need of improvement, corrective action or restructuring according to ESEA. The fiscal flexibility applied via this waiver will allow each school to more effectively recruit and retain the very best teachers in order to provide quality instruction for each student. By matching the best leadership with the best instructional staff and creating an environment at each school where professional development is a natural part of the school culture, student achievement will be positively impacted and goals will be achieved. This waiver will also create a stable workforce within these schools which is vital for their long term success.

How will schools continue to provide assistance to the same populations served by the program(s) for which the waiver is requested?

This waiver only enhances each school’s ability to provide quality assistance to the populations served by the Title I, Part A program. Each school that is part of this project will receive the same allocation of Title I, Part A school level funds. Those funds will be used to provide additional instructional support to teachers and students with the purchase of content area coaches. These coaches will work with teachers and students to ensure quality instruction and learning is taking place. Through the Empowering Effective Teachers initiative, the district also provides Peer or Mentor Evaluators for each teacher in order to provide assistance and feedback in the areas of planning, instruction, classroom management, the use of data, as well as parent communication strategies and techniques. This waiver creates another mechanism that will help each school further build capacity in the area of teacher expertise by effectively recruiting and retaining the very best teachers, providing ongoing professional development and support to them, and therefore assuring that each student will receive quality instruction every day of every year he/she attends the school.

Click here to download waiver being requested from the United States Department of Education along with the letter from the Superintendent.