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Millions Of Dollars In Private Funds Headed Down Pipeline For Duval Schools

Jacksonville Public Education Fund

Nearly $20 million in private funding has been approved to go toward recruiting and keeping the “best and brightest” educators in Duval County, and even more could be on its way.That figure includes $15 million to incentivize top performing teachers and principals to come and stay in the district.

Donors of the Quality Education for All Fund, or QEA, gave an overview of  the plans for their private pool of money over the next five years at the annual joint meeting between the boards of Duval County Public Schools and the Jacksonville Public Education Fund Wednesday evening.

“We know from our own human resources and our businesses, it’s all about hiring the best and brightest people,” said QEA Advisory Council Chairman Wayne Weaver. “You evaluate them well when you hire them, but also make sure they understand what they’re supposed to accomplish in their jobs and so we said we can do that.”

The QEA Fund birthed from an initiative launched in 2004 by the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida to improve student achievement. The group called upon the generosity of about 30 local philanthropists with an ultimate goal of raising $50 million. They also sought the guidance of national consulting firm the Bridgespan Group and Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti to determine how to best invest the dollars.

So far, QEA has raised $36 million, which will go toward six initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining quality educators in the district’s 36 toughest schools — all part of the Ribault, Raines and Andrew Jackson High School feeder pattern. Some of the initiatives have already begun, but the majority will go into full effect next year.

Members of the QEA Fund, Jacksonville Public Education Fund, and the school district are scheduled to hold a press conference to detail the plans on Thursday morning.

But for now, here is a breakdown of each program and the funds attached:

The New Teacher Project

What it is: A district-wide initiative contracting the New York based non-profit TNTP to conduct an audit of the district’s current human resource policies and practices over a seven month period between January 2014 and July 2014 and develop the state’s first Common Core aligned teacher observation rubric. A full audit report from TNTP is expected this summer.

How much: $653,361 approved.

Teach for America

What it is: A grant that goes toward supporting a three-year contract with the teacher recruiting nonprofit TFA beginning in the 2014-15 year. The contract was approved by the Duval County School Board in March and will be paid in part by the district as well as by separate funds generated by TFA. The contract provides support and resources for up to 200 TFA corp members annually. New recruits will be focused in the district’s 36 targeted schools in the areas of math, English language arts and science.

How much:  $1.8 million for the first year, and a total of $5.2 million total proposed.

The Jacksonville Teacher Residency Program

What it is: A medical residency-style program set to launch this summer that places high achieving undergraduate science and math majors and places them in high-need schools for a total of four years—one year as a resident with an assigned mentor and three years as a teacher in one of 36 targeted schools. The program launches this summer.

How much: $1.6 million approved, $5.5 million total proposed.

Performance Incentives for QEA Schools

What it is: A performance-based pay incentive program designed to attract and keep the highly effective teachers in the district’s highest need schools. Teachers in the district’s 36 QEA schools who show a student achievement growth of 25 percent or higher on the value-added model would be eligible to receive an additional $20,000 to stay.

In the subsequent two years, the same teacher could receive that much, half or no incentive depending on student performance. Also, teachers working outside the 36 QEA schools would receive a $17,000 bump their first year if they agree to move to one of the 36 and could receive the same increase or less in the next two years, depending on student performance. Likewise, principals who’ve demonstrated an ability to raise student achievement would be eligible to get a $20,000 boost their first year if they work in one of the 36 schools. They receive the same, half or no incentive over the next two years, depending on the school’s overall performance.

How much:  Up to $15.2 million approved over the next three years.

Summer Principals Academy at Columbia University

What it is: A leadership fellowship at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University which trains teachers  to become principals or assistant principals. Through the program, which takes place each summer, fellows can also earn a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. Two teachers in Duval County attended training last year. Three will be attending the program this summer.

How much: Currently, $304,633 approved this year, $1.1 million proposed.

Data System Improvements

What it is: The creation of an improved district-wide data system for teachers, district leaders and the community to help them make data-based decisions about human talent within district schools. If approved, it would launch this fall.

How much: $5 million proposed, not yet approved.

Check back with WJCT's Rhema Thompson next Monday for a deeper look into the county's Quest for Quality in a special three-part series.

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.

Rhema Thompson began her post at WJCT on a very cold day in January 2014 and left WJCT to join the team at The Florida Times Union in December 2014.