A program that supports new advanced placement courses with outside funding has met with repeated opposition by teachers unions who object to bonuses paid to teachers for getting students to pass.
Project Opening Doors, a nonprofit affiliated with EASTCONN, supports AP programs in 23 schools across 19 districts with funding and training. POD replicates a program from Dallas that has expanded to six states including Connecticut.
POD receives its funding from the National Math and Science Initiative. The Connecticut Business & Industry Association founded and incubated POD before transferring it to EASTCONN.
The program has five components, according to POD president J. A. Camille Vautour:
- Professional development
- Mentoring and support for teachers
- Tutoring and Saturday instruction time for students
- Open enrollment
- Student and teacher incentives
Opposition from the Connecticut Education Association and its district unions have centered only on the teacher incentives.
POD, in imitation of the Dallas program, provides $100 to each student who passes an AP test with a score of 3 or higher. Each teacher receives $100 for each passing student and has the opportunity to earn additional money for crossing a threshold. For example, a teacher with 13 passing students could earn an additional $1,000 with additional bonuses at 15 and 17 students.
The thresholds are designed for each teacher individually.
Local unions have taken the issue of teacher bonuses to binding arbitration and lost in three districts, Coventry, Waterbury and Stamford. The Stamford Education Association lost an appeal of the arbitration ruling in court.
According to Vautour, the Bloomfield Board of Education is appealing a binding arbitration decision it lost based on the Bloomfield teachers contract.
The CEA also challenged POD incentives in a complaint with the state Board of Labor Relations.
In his testimony to the board, CEA executive director John Yrchik criticized POD for not using teacher input to create its program.
“In other successful Advanced Placement programs, that is not the case,” Yrchik said. “Educators themselves direct the course of the educational programs. The fact that this happens lends to greater buy-in among the staff, greater collaboration, greater support for the program and, I think, greater success.”
Later in his testimony, however, Yrchik admitted he had not asked any POD participants for their opinion of the program.
Thomas Mooney, an attorney with Shipman & Goodwin who represents school districts fighting the CEA challenge, asked if Yrchik was testifying that there is greater buy-in among staff in non-POD programs.