San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) was awarded a $46 million grant from the Department of Education’s Teacher Incentive Fund, one of only 13 grants awarded by the fund for fiscal year 2016. SAISD’s grant was one of the highest awarded, and will be paid out over five years, beginning with this year.

The district will receive $2,279,576 within the school year to begin implementing “creative incentives” to help teachers improve student performance, as well as other district level incentive initiatives.

The purpose of the grant, according to the Department of Education website, is to fund “projects that develop and implement performance-based teacher and principal compensation systems in high-need schools.” In SAISD, this will apply to 15 campuses that received Improvement Required (IR) status for the 2015-16 school year, according to the district’s 2016 accountability report.

Essentially, sources within the district see the grant as start-up money for innovative initiatives. With the Tax Ratification Election (TRE) on the ballot, district officials can identify effective programs, knowing how they will fund them after the grant’s five years are up.

The district received 100% of the grant requested, meaning that all goals outlined in the application abstract can be funded. The Department of Education often awards partial requests, outlining which initiatives it chooses to fund. The following was taken from the district’s abstract narrative, available on the Department of Education website:

“SAISD, a Local Educational Agency (LEA), will improve student performance in the district’s lowest performing schools by identifying, developing, rewarding and elevating the role of high-quality teachers and principals in these schools and by creating model classrooms that support excellent teaching and learning experiences for the district’s neediest students. SAISD target schools are: Crockett Elementary, Rodriguez Elementary, Storm Elementary, Gates Elementary, Miller Elementary, Ogden Elementary Ball Elementary, Highland Park Elementary, Stewart Elementary, Irving Middle, Tafolla Middle, Davis Middle, Lanier HS, Sam Houston HS, and Highlands HS. Poverty and low educational attainment are concentrated within SAISD, 40% of all students aged 5-17 are living in poverty, and 48% of all families within the district have incomes of less than $35,000 per year. Nearly all (92%) SAISD students are economically disadvantaged, meaning they are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch or other public assistance programs, and 91% of all students are Hispanic. Nearly one in every five (19%) of SAISD students is an English language learner.

“TIF-SA will partner teachers, principals, The San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, Texas A&M University at San Antonio, Relay Graduate School of Education and a non-profit Educational Consulting Agency to design and implement a redesigned HCMS that will 1) incentivize placement of high-quality educators in the district’s 15 lowest-performing schools; 2) better meet the needs of the district’s neediest students in these schools; 3) facilitate adoption the new T-TESS and TPESS teacher and principal appraisal systems that are part of Texas’ recently adopted State Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to High-Quality Educators; and 4) increase professional development and continuing education opportunities for teachers in TIF-SA target schools.

“This redesign of the district’s HCMS will result in 1) higher rates of placement and retention of high quality teachers and principals in SAISD’s lowest-performing schools; 2) improved teacher and principal effectiveness ratings; and 3) improved student outcomes in the district’s lowest-performing schools.”

Top image: A teacher at Stewart Elementary, which received an Improvement Required rating on SAISD’s 2016 accountability report, leads a Bingo game with students.  Photo by Scott Ball.

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Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog,, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.