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Virginia Offers $5,000 Merit Grants To Teachers

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A select 169 schools in 57 districts are eligible to compete for the awards, in which individual teachers could receive a maximum of five thousand dollars.

Charles Pyle with the Virginia Department of Education says they’re now revising guidelines on how teachers will be evaluated, but he acknowledges student achievement will be a big part of it.

By that, however, he doesn't just mean test scores, he says. "What we don't want to say is that students in this class have earned relatively high scores so therefore we must conclude this is an effective teacher," he says.

"We want to look beyond that and look at the growth of the students," he adds.

Still some critics say there’s no evidence that merit-pay initiatives lead to better student performance. Kitty Boitnott, president of the Virginia Education Association, has other concerns -- mainly related to the current teacher pay scale.

"The General Assembly has offered numerous times to get our teachers to the national average, and we're still nowhere near that," she says. "And now we're going to offer limited incentive to just a handful of people."

Eligible districts have until June 15 to apply for the program, and grants will be announced later in the summer.

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