This year, for the first time ever, Idaho teachers will have the opportunity to receive bonuses above and beyond their base salary. Idaho's new statewide performance pay system was developed by all educational stakeholder groups in 2009 as part of Idaho's Race to the Top application. Designed as a way to reward teachers for excellent work in the classroom, it is intended, not to replace base salaries, but to award supplemental bonuses to teachers who take on leadership duties, work in hard-to-fill positions, and teachers and building administrators whose schools demonstrate gains in student achievement as determined by academic growth.

In this first year, awards will be based on groups of teachers reaching student achievement or student growth goals at the local and state levels. The bonuses will be paid out in Fall 2012. Awards for leadership and hard-to-fill positions will be phased in in the 2013-2014 school year. Here's a closer look at how the pay-for-performance plan will work in the upcoming school year.

Under the student achievement portion of the plan, all awards will be distributed on a school-wide basis or to groups of teachers whose students meet state and local measures of student achievement. The group-based distributions will foster collaboration and teamwork and recognize that well-rounded student success is the product of learning in all disciplines, including P.E., the arts, and humanities.

The state portion of the performance awards will be based on school-wide performance on the ISAT. All members of certificated staff in the school will earn shares toward a bonus if the school meets state academic goals by showing significant academic growth in a single school year or overall achievement in a single year. More than 70 percent of the money distributed at the state level will go toward those schools showing academic growth.

For the local portion of the performance awards, school districts worked with local teacher representatives to set student achievement goals for groups of certificated employees by September 1, 2011. Districts had the flexibility to decide what areas to focus on, but the goals had to be measureable. Examples of possible categories include: student test scores, graduation rates, matriculation percentages, parent involvement, etc. This gives local districts an opportunity to incentivize improvement and reward excellence in the key areas in their districts in need of additional attention or reward.

In the 2013-2014 school year, teachers can receive awards for teaching in hard-to-fill positions-like math, science, ESL, or special education-or assuming leadership positions?like mentoring, professional development, and leadership committees. The amount of the award, and the specific hard-to-fill and leadership positions that receive awards, will be determined at the local level and could vary by district.

Leadership awards may be distributed on an individual basis. They represent a bonus for extra time worked above and beyond the work day schedule, and they cannot include work related to athletics or student activities. Awards will be determined by the local school board. Any teacher may receive an award, but no individual may receive more than $3,800 for leadership activities. 18.5 percent of total performance award funds has been allocated for leadership awards.

Hard-to-fill awards are also determined at the local level and must be awarded to a category of teachers; districts cannot single out one teacher in math, for example. Additionally, districts may vary the amount of bonuses between different fields (such as between math and special education), but not within fields (such as between two different math teachers). The maximum any one person can earn in hard-to-fill awards is $3,800. 7.4 percent of total performance award funds is allocated for these hard-to-fill positions.

Generally, districts can designate up to 10 percent of certificated instructional positions as hard-to-fill and up to 25 percent of certificated instructional positions as leadership positions, but they have the flexibility to shift leadership and hard-to-fill money back and forth as local needs dictate. A district could, therefore, provide up to 35 percent of certified instructional staff with hard-to-fill or leadership awards if they chose to move all these funds into one category or the other.

In total, 63 percent of pay-for-performance award money will be distributed according to the decisions of local school leaders, while 37 percent will be distributed at the state level according to academic growth and achievement on the ISAT.