Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Reward the good, or maybe the bad?

Reward the good, or maybe the bad?

Let’s say you have a school that has great test scores, good staff retention, and is creating an innovative learning environment.  If you were giving out money you would probably want to reward that school so they could continue to do more good things.   Or maybe you would decide they were good enough and you could give your money to other schools.
Then there is this other school.  Test scores are in the pits.  Teachers are standing in line to get out of there.   The school can’t seem to get traction to do what it needs to do.  Perhaps if they had some extra money they might be able to turn things around.  Then again why throw good money after bad?   Look how poorly they have done with the money they already have.
Then there are the schools in the middle of the heap.  How do they break out of mediocrity and would they break out if only they had the money to do so.  Or why aren't they doing something better with the resources they do have?
Money is finite.  As all of our parents used to say, it doesn’t grow on trees.  School boards need to decide which schools will get the money that is available and how much will they get.
In the past, Baltimore City Public Schools has made the decision to reward those schools that are doing a great job of educating kids.  Those schools got an extra share of the money pot.
However, this year the School Board took a turn south.  For the upcoming school year, schools with poor test scores, high poverty rates and poor staff retention are going to get extra money in the hope that money can help to turn those schools around.  Because budgets are a zero sum game that means the other schools will get less.
There are multiple issues here.  First of all, are we punishing the good schools and rewarding the bad ones?  Or how can a bad school get better without extra help.  Then there is the issue of how do you define a high poverty school?   The present federal administration has changed the definition of poverty so that now fewer kids are living in poverty.  Of course, their life situations haven’t changed at all, we just changed the definition.  Who knew you could use language to get rid of poverty. Baltimore is a city of immigrants both recent and long past.  Many of those children are learning English as a second language.  Not surprisingly, the language deficit impacts their scores on the tests.  Schools are punished for lower test scores but we don’t go much farther than blaming the teachers.  Maybe more intensive language instruction for those children for whom English is a second language, might improve test scores.  More intensive instruction costs money.

Money is finite.  There is only so much to go around.  How do we decide who gets an extra share.  All schools should be created equally, they aren’t and some are more equal than others.   Do we reward the good or the bad?

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