Board's Eye View

A new study released by Education Next will cool some jets among proponents of performance-based pay for teachers.? The report, by Sarena Goodman and Lesley Turner, PhD candidates in Columbia University's Department of Economics, analyses New York City's pioneering School-Wide Performance Bonus Program, launched in 2007, and finds ?very little effect overall, positive or negative.??

The program, which was the subject of intense negotiations between the city's Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers, was initiated in 181 randomly selected, disadvantaged elementary schools (chosen from a group of 309 high-need schools) and was distinguished by the collaborative nature of its bonus system: the money was given to schools, based on school-wide student performance,?and then distributed to teachers by a school committee made up of two administrators and two UFT representatives.? If a school achieved pre-set academic goals, it received a bonus that amounted to $3,000 per teacher, about 7 percent of a starting teacher's salary and 3 percent of a veteran's annual salary. ?Not bad.

It just didn't?do much for the?kids.

The researchers cite a number of complicating factors in trying to analyze the Bonus Program ? including the fact that NYC was implementing other accountability measures at the time and that most of its schools improved. However, the researchers, did find a ?modest?but meaningful? impact of the program in smaller schools with fewer teachers.? They hypothesize,?

[T]his particular type of merit pay program, where bonuses are based on school-wide performance and teachers expect

...

?I'm not sure if Atlanta school board members were included in Rick Hess's latest survey of school boards, but if they were, let's hope they aren't representative.??

Atlanta has been embroiled in a school cheating scandal that has brought down its superintendent and caused the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to put the district on probation. (See my report from January 23 here).? A parent group formed (great name) -- Step up or Step Down ? with 740 members and 62,500 hits on its Facebook page in its first week of existence.? It told the board to get its act together:

Engage the public?. Close the loopholes in Board policy?. Seek expert executive guidance.

Whether the board sought it or not, Arne Duncan, in town for a speaking engagement at Morehouse College, weighed in anyway:

What you have now, frankly, is you have adults who I think have lost sight of why they're doing this work? It is what I call adult dysfunction.?

Adults?? School boards?? This could be a new concept.

--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

New York hates to be behind its Hudson River rival ? New Jersey ? but new Empire State Governor Andrew Cuomo is doing a nice job keeping up with his Garden State comrade-in-chief Chris Christie with education blasts.?

This morning, Cuomo makes an appearance on the front page of the New York Times,?uttering?unsympathetic comments about ?the salaries of some of ?New York's school superintendents; most notably, one Long Island schools chief, who makes $386,868 (over $500,000 with?benefits!) overseeing just 6,687 students and a budget of just over $176 million; that's?more than double the governor's?salary but a bit less than the $133 billion that the Governor oversees.? Said the Times:

Eye-popping.

Said Cuomo:

I understand that they sometimes have to manage budgets, and sometimes the budgets are difficult.? But why they get paid more than the governor of the state I really don't understand.

In fact, according to the Times, Cuomo,? who will be making $179,000 to run New York State, is earning less than?more than 40 percent of the state's 700+ school superintendents.? (Christie is proposing a $175,000 cap on most of New Jersey superintendents, thank you very much.)

Whether this "alternative villain" is enough to convince New Yorkers that a 7% cut in state aid to education might just be warranted is anyone's guess. Number 1 in spending,?the state's?8th-graders?rank in middle of the pack in NAEP math tests -- so its citizens may not understand the numbers here.

?--Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee...

It must have been quite an event, last night's storm-tossed public meeting of New York City's Panel for Education Policy, a Bloomberg created group that makes recommendations to the mayor on key education issues.?According to Elizabeth Green of Gotham Schools, the PEP ?unsurprisingly? gave its approval to closing ten schools and allowing four ?co-locations,? putting charters in buildings with traditional public schools.

One of the highlights of the evening ? this at about 11 pm ? was, according to Green, when ?teachers union activists ? including [United Federation of Teachers] president Michael Mulgrew, not necessarily teachers ? heckled speakers.

After a mother says, ?My local school is pathetic,? she gets a round of boos. ?Jerk!? somebody from the UFT group says.

Another great moment,?as the meeting ended, at 1:30 a.m.,

`Mulgrew joined the UFT hecklers at the end,' Anna [Philips] reports. As voting began, audience members hurled shouts at the stage. A NY1 Noticias reporter tells Anna that Mulgrew was one of the first to yell. ?Puppets!? he shouted.

What's this about collaboration?

?Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

New York's new governor, Andrew Cuomo, unveiled his proposed state budget yesterday and, as expected, it's not pretty. True to his no new taxes promise, to close the Empire State's $10 billion deficit, Cuomo proposed cutting ?the state's $135+ billion budget by almost 3 percent, with, as the Wall Street Journal said, ?the most dramatic cuts [falling] on education.?

If Cuomo has his way, aid to K?12 public schools would drop by $1.5 billion, a cut of some 7 percent (see here, here, and here). ?New York City schools, the largest district in the state ? and the nation ? with over a million students, would receive some $600 million less from the state than last year.? Some 60% of the state's public school revenues come from the state aid fund; most of the rest is raised locally, from property taxes.

There is some hope that the budget crisis will lead to systemic changes ? to the teacher tenure and seniority system, for example ? but?most districts?will no doubt be?lopping off the heads of the last-hired teachers.

?Mandate relief? is one of those proposed changes. Said the governor,

State Aid reductions are coupled with a mandate relief effort, undertaken by Executive Order, which will lower the system-wide cost of providing education services, thus mitigating the impact of decreases in aid.

Cuomo is also proposing ?competitive funding pools,? a la Race to the Top, that will distribute some...

Indeed, Happy 10th Anniversary, Education Next!? Co-founder, and editor-in-chief Paul Peterson has a nifty review of the journal's founding ? at a meeting with Checker Finn, Jay Greene, and Marci Kanstoroom in 2000 ? and highlights a few?examples from its wide and deep contribution to the nation's debate about public school rejuvenation over the last ten years. (I'm?honored to have been a part of the magazine since 2004, when it published my ?Board's Eye View? account of life on a school board.)

But not to be missed is the journal's tag-team ?forum? essays, ?Taking Stock of a Decade of Reform,? with?contributions ?by Peterson, Finn, and Kanstoroom (PFK), wearing the gold trunks, and Frederick Hess, Michael Petrilli, and Martin West (HPW), wearing the green trunks.? (You can also watch Mike and Checker debate the question of whether ?the war? has been won or lost, here.)

Characteristically smart and frank, the two essays offer unique takes on the meaning of such events, issues, and people as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, Bill Gates and Eli Broad, Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein, bonus pay, value-added, vouchers, charters, vested interests, (yes, unions), ?an unnamed ?left-leaning celebrity filmmaker? and ?even zeitgeist queen Oprah Winfrey.?

The writing is typically smooth.? Here's a gem from PFK:

If one looks strictly at the flow of federal dollars rather than the flow of talk, one sees that in 2010 maintaining jobs for...

It began with punching holes through the ?firewall? between teacher evaluations and student performance, which many states have done thanks to Race to the Top prompting.

Now, says the New York Times, ?GOP Governors Take Aim at Teacher Tenure.? ?Pushed by ?crushing state budget deficits,? report Trip Gabriel and Sam Dillon, governors in Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nevada, and New Jersey are all demanding an end to teacher tenure.? ?These new Republican governors are all trying to outreform one another,? Fordham's Mike Petrilli tells the Times. Another race is on.

Teacher unions are clearly on the defensive, trying to protect an assembly-line right dating to the early 20th century (New Jersey was first in 1909, report Gabriel and Dillon) ?while still wanting to be treated like professionals.? ?Dennis Van Roekle, president of the National Education Association, tells the Times that the governors should be focused on getting competent teachers into the classrooms instead of worrying about tenure. (The Times doesn't mention the major efforts on that front. See ?Education schools up close and personal.?)

The American Federation of Teachers, which still calls itself ?a union of professionals,? has an MSNBC interview of AFT president Randi Weingarten about tenure on its home page.? Weingarten says she wants to do some ?myth busting? about tenure, pointing out, unsurprisingly ? and unconvincingly ? that tenure is ?not a job for life,? it just ?gets you a hearing before you get fired.?? Sure, Randi.

In...

I was just finishing up my ?Sunday morning, big picture memo about school district priorities when the phone rang.

I should know better by now than to answer a phone on Sunday morning.? But I did.

It was Ken*, my son's one-time classmate and a member of the memorable 3rd grade basketball team I had coached -? what I remember is that the kids, three of them sons of state troopers, spent more time fighting each other than the other team ? almost ten years before. ?I had recently helped bail one of those kids, now 19 and not a trooper's son, out of jail.

I had run into Ken a few months earlier, and we caught up a bit. He had been a wonderful athlete,?though shy?and unassuming on the court, and not a fighter.? An African-American, he too was now 19, unemployed, the father of a two-year-old and living with his girl friend ?in one of our town's many subsidized housing units. Nothing unusual there. He had said he was getting his GED and wanted to go to college and I had told him to let me know if he needed a reference and gave him my number.? And that's what I expected him to be asking for when I heard his voice yesterday.

Instead, he told me that his mother and younger brother were being evicted from their HUD-operated, low-income housing apartment.? Could I help?

I knew how this would go if I...

Now it's an AP report, via the Wall Street Journal, telling us that Mayor Bloomberg will have to lay off lots of teachers ?unless teacher seniority rules are changed.?

According to the AP, which said it heard the Mayor say this at a meeting at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn,? ?the city could have to lay off nearly every teacher hired in the last five years? because of the proposed ?deep cuts? in state aid to education by the new governor.

In fact, it makes sense, as Bloomberg obviously knows. The more senior teachers cost more than new hires, so any seniority-based layoffs means eliminating the lower-paid teachers first, thus cutting more teachers, increasing class size. ?Bloomberg is pushing the obvious: ?the system can keep more teachers in these hard times if doesn't have to keep the most expensive ones.

Let the negotiations begin.

?Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

____________________

*See here

Don't miss Bill Tucker's new post on the Education Next page. He takes out?after the Times for a piece they did about digital learning in Florida.

As Tucker writes, ?as we've seen in the past with the Times, the article is framed by an assumption that the traditional classroom is best. It implies a false dichotomy between technology and good teaching.?

Tucker, managing director of Ed Sector, knows what he's talking about: see here and here.

It's time ? past time, perhaps, as the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt are learning ? to recognize the fact that Internet is not the classroom TV of the Sixties.? The World Wide Web is here ? and everywhere.

?Peter Meyer, Bernard Lee Schwartz Policy Fellow

Pages