Pawhuska Public Schools implements incentive pay plan

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Pawhuska Public Schools has established, with approval by its Board of Education, an "incentive pay plan" to reward teachers based on the performance of their students on Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) testing.

MAP testing was created by an educational private, non-profit organization called NWEA (it was originally the Northwest Evaluation Association, but began a rebranding process in 2017 that changed its name to simply, NWEA).

Pawhuska Public Schools is in its fourth cycle of the use of MAP tests to gather data on the classroom success and vulnerabilities of its students.

Pawhuska Superintendent David Cash, who led the introduction of MAP testing in the school district in an attempt to provide teachers and parents with specific, actionable data about student academic needs, said that teacher bonuses will be calculated in May 2022 based on student performance during the 2021-22 school year.

The bonuses are tied to student performance, but on MAP tests rather than Oklahoma's state tests.

Cash explained that MAP testing offers the rigor needed for a state academic test, and noted that Nebraska uses it for that purpose.

This is the first year that Pawhuska has implemented MAP-referenced incentive pay for teachers, and the size of the "bonus pool" -- the money available for teacher bonuses -- has yet to be calculated. No teacher can lose any money based on the MAP results. The incentive pay plan is simply about rewarding teachers whose students make significant progress.

The Pawhuska incentive pay plan will receive oversight from the local Board of Education.

"Every year has been better and better, as far as teachers honing really honing in on those skills for each student," Cash said of the effect of MAP testing in Pawhuska. He said the data collected through the testing process have given teachers, administrators and parents a very helpful "common language" for discussing student progress and needs.

"I think it helps our parents just to understand where their children are, academically," Cash said. MAP testing results have proven more helpful than the results of the state of Oklahoma's officially mandated testing, he said.

"I just think it's much more valuable," Cash said, adding that MAP testing helps offer clear answers to the question, "What can your child do?"

Cash said the creation of the incentive pay plan has already had a positive effect on teacher focus on generating as much student progress as possible.

"I am eager to see if it has the desired impact, and I think it will," Cash said. The Pawhuska district has good teachers, and they -- like everyone else -- like to be recognized when they make positive contributions, he said.

Local Oklahoma Education Association (teacher union) representatives were part of the process of developing the district's incentive pay plan, Cash said.

"At the end of the day, I want it to be impactful," he said.