“In the first year, the financial incentives were attractive but as time went on, the program became a way to help improve my teaching practice and focus on student achievement.” This statement was one of the many comments shared by Bladensburg Elementary School teachers and administrators, Prince George’s County school district officials and local union officials who joined Secretary Arne Duncan for a roundtable discussion on Bladensburg’s implementation of the Financial Incentive Rewards for Supervisors and Teachers (FIRST) program.
FIRST is funded by a five-year, $17 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant awarded to Prince George’s County in 2007. Prince George’s County developed FIRST as a voluntary program with union support and input from teachers and administrators who served on planning committees. The program rewards participating teachers and administrators for school improvement and considers factors like student test gains, positive classroom performance evaluations, and professional activities such as mentoring other teachers or becoming certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Lewis Robinson, Executive Director of the Prince George’s County Educators Association, and a partner in the development of the FIRST program, credited the program for creating better collaboration and improving student achievement.
Following the roundtable discussion, Principal Rhonda Pitts, Lewis Robinson and FIRST participating teachers Bridgette Blue and Bernadine Reid, joined Duncan for a national media call to discuss Prince George’s FIRST program and kick off the competition for this year’s $437 million Teacher Incentive Fund program.
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