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Race to the Top grants would drag down schools



Published: Fri, June 4, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

The race wouldn’t lead to the top

Despite considerable pres- sure from state officials, Youngstown’s teachers union, like half of Ohio’s school districts, said no to the federal “Race to the Top” grant program. I would be glad to offer an explanation: The program is riddled with controversy, and unlikely to ease local budget concerns.

The fraction of funding available to local districts would be tightly tied to certain objectives — teacher education programs and test development — rather than the myriad costs already straining school budgets. In Youngstown, where employees have received years of targeted professional development, teachers have called, “Enough already!”

The general public may be unaware that Race to the Top represents an historic shift in federal spending for education. It will replace the prior federal practice of providing additional funds to the neediest locations with a sort of political imitation of the game show, “Family Feud,” featuring state teams who strive to win points for their own application by most closely matching their responses to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s reform proposals. The grant requirements led Gov. Strickland to accede to changes in Ohio’s carefully constructed education plan, so that his team can congratulate themselves on a “good answer!” Yet, Duncan’s proposed reforms, including increasing standardized test stakes and proliferation of charter schools, have long been opposed by public educators as distortions of appropriate K-12 education.

Under the grant, districts and their local unions will have to open contracts and renegotiate touchy issues related to evaluation and compensation of teachers. For most cash-strapped districts, this is no time to offer bonuses or commissions when teachers raise a class’s test scores. Just completing the paperwork of the required plan will stress budgets. Ohio Superintendent Deborah Delisle has admitted that despite the addition of funding minimums, districts’ participation costs may exceed grant funding levels.

Education Week’s “Quality Counts 2010” report ranked Ohio’s educational system fifth in the nation. Yet the federal government demanded of all states the names of an arbitrary 5 percent of schools to be closed, and got a list of about 65 Ohio schools.

Especially in a recession, respect is due to districts and unions who said “no” because principles of authentic quality instruction outweighed a grab for short-term dollars.

Peggy Palma, Youngstown


Comments

1PXGhost(51 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Ohio's current budget was only balanced because the federal government provided STIMULOUS DOLLARS to artificially sustain our state (1.4 billion dollars) and our eduction system (933 million dollars in title 1 funds). Projections for Ohio's tex reciepts are expected to fall 8-10 percent by next fiscal year.

Without the money this program can offer, we will be faced with cutting upwards of 3 billion MORE dollars (maybe more) out of our next fiscal budget.

Teacher's Unions are worried about the "pay-for-performance" system because it could break the union's power in school contract negotiations. Yet, they won't tell their members that without this program they will face layoffs, furlows, and school closures.

Weigh your options, because you could be looking at joining a big portion of Ohio familys in the unemployment lines.

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2Education_Voter(828 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

PXGhost:
No, Ghost. Read the letter more carefully. Pay for Performance would lead to higher compensation for teachers -- a goal that President Obama and Arne Duncan have endorsed time and again.

Teachers have said that commissions don't motivate them, they are motivated enough by seeing children's growth without dollars attached. So why offer something extra that they are not even looking for?

Don't you wonder why the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the Ohio Education Association endorsed Race to the Top? Districts and locals who did NOT sign were opposing the direction of the two big teacher unions.

Half of the Race to the Top funds will be used to increase the State Department of Education in order to make new tests and provide more classes for teachers.

The other half will be used to implement those goals in local schools. So how does that help with payroll, utilities, transportation, or school supplies?

Who is Arne Duncan to hold all the cards in deciding what states get funded? Like Louisiana said, this is OUR money, not money from his own pocket like the grants from Bill Gates.

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3dreamcatcher52(140 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

OEA (and NEA) endorsed Obama in spite of his support for merit pay and charter schools. Now they have no choice but to endorse this latest scheme. They should have come out against it and exposed it for what it is. But they are in bed with the Democratic party and didn't have the courage to stand up for their members. They don't have to endorse either party. They should be standing up for teachers and I, for one, am sick and tired of their justifications.

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4PXGhost(51 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

@ Eduction_Voter - Pay for Performance would also allow a district to terminate non-performing teachers without regard to tenure.

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5Education_Voter(828 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

PX Ghost,
They can terminate ineffective teachers NOW without regard to tenure. You don't need "pay for performance" to do that -- just a competent administrator.
(See psyker99's post. Sometimes the administrators favor the most incompetent teachers. So an administrator does have to give evidence of why a teacher is being dismissed. This is also true in other enterprises -- unless they like to risk lawsuits.)

For k-12 education in Ohio, tenure is called a "continuing contract." It is not the same as tenure in colleges.

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6Education_Voter(828 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

dreamcatcher: I know it is small comfort to Ohioans, but don't fault the entire NEA. There are other state unions who stood up against this obsession with endless standardized test prep. This administration's education program is "Bush, the Sequel".
But remember, McCain had the same attitude. Someday the taxpayers will realize that they have allowed the testing industry to take their money.

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7PXGhost(51 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

@ Education_Voter

"Someday the taxpayers will realize that they have allowed the testing industry to take their money."

That, we can agree on.

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8Education_Voter(828 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Oh yeah, Ghost. They have no idea. First there are the tests themselves, that used to be created for next to nothing by classroom teachers.
Then there are all the materials the company sells for test prep because the test scores have such dire consequences for schools and districts. (And no consequences at all for students - they don't count as a grade.)
Then there is Battelle who gets paid to apply their secret formula for the value added score. (While any teacher can closely predict a student's score, the value added score sometimes comes out of left field.)
Then the companies charge to grade the tests.
Now they are selling the idea that students need frequent commercially produced short cycle tests during the year to indicate their progress toward the one big test that counts.
It's sickening. It's not about the kids for legislators who promote this. It's about business and profits.
The Secretary of Education is all about the free market, as he himself will gladly tell anyone.
The idea that a teacher with her salary of $42K is the one cashing in, and the one who needs to be held accountable for wasted money is just a grim joke.

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9PXGhost(51 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

@Education_Voter
Wow. I don't think there's a single thing you wrote in that last post that I can disagree with. Have we found a common cause?

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10Springman(235 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

"Someday the taxpayers will realize that they have allowed the testing industry to take their money."

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/...

http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/62...

Most of us were well aware of this when 'No Child' was being considered.

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11Education_Voter(828 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

I think we have quite a bit in common, Ghost. How about this? The area teachers are willing to turn down this spending on them for teachers' classes, on re-writing the standards one more time, on making "better" tests and practice for them.
Stop wasting stimulus money. Stop wasting money altogether. Let us teach. Get our backs a little, so the kids will settle down.
They take a lot of grief for this stand, but I'll give them a pat on the back for honesty, when they could have just gone along to go along without making waves.

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12UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Time to open up Ohio schools and let the chips fall where they may. The unions should be happy to signup for this program that will allow them to get more money for better education or is there another idea here?

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13Education_Voter(828 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Well the Federal government has strings attached to the program (like expansion of charter schools, where in the Mahoning Valley the market for them is already saturated.)
And the money can't be used for anything we are interested in anyway. We would rather make changes at the state or local level than accept control from one guy in Washington. No other Secretary of State has ever had this kind of money under his sole control. It comes out of the stimulus funds (ARRA). But instead of stimulating the economy, he is using the funds to basically bribe school systems to accept his ideas for a nation-wide schooling system.
We can't see taking money to bloat the system. Honestly, given the response to our decision, it seems like tax-payers just insist you take their money. If we do, I can't believe they won't come back and blame the teachers when they can't see anything tangible come out of the program. And they won't.

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14PXGhost(51 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

@Education_Voter
The said truth of the matter is: take the money or not, there are going to be problems to come.

The Legislative Budget Committee says: If we assume that Ohio's tax receipts continue to decline as they are, for the next fiscal year, without additional Federal Money, we will be looking at a potential cut of 33% in state level education funding alone.

So, with this money, we end up with a goofy education system. Without it, we are looking at layoffs, furlows, etc.

Pick your poison, it's going to get worse before it gets better.

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15Education_Voter(828 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Here's some examples of how state teams must play the RttT game:
1. Because fiascos like Eagle Heights Academy's troubles were occuring all over the state, last summer's HB1 required more oversight of them. However, to get more points for RttT, the legislature rescinded the change in the fall.

2. In December, Ohio would have rolled out new standards for math and literacy. (Those are lists of skills and knowledge children should have at each grade level.)
But they tossed the new standards aside in favor of the adoption of national standards, otherwise known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) for 40 points.

Arne Duncan's genius is that only a few states get the funding, but all of the competitors are stuck with the changes!

Here's some links for your own research
Brookings Institute:
http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/201...

Diane Ravitch at Education Week
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridgi...

Schools 4 $Sale: Inquire at U.S. DOE
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/Bridgi...

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16Education_Voter(828 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Ghost,
We know about Ohio's budget problems. We think it is wrong for the federal government to play these games to decide who should be saved. And force "winners" to swallow his ideas at that.
Local school districts also know they are being rather Quixotic about this. If the state forces RttT changes on half the districts, it'll all move our way. But signing on would mean violating the core values of these teachers.

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17tookie(64 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Fact is, we need to reward good teachers (merit pay) and have the ability to get rid of ineffective teachers. Youngstown schools, of all the districts in the country, should be involved in Race to the Top. It's a failing district that needs major, major change and the teachers union, unfortunately, doesn't want to be partners in pursuing such solutions Hopefully, the academic commission will make major change and that means taking control of the schools away from the teacher's union.

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18Education_Voter(828 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Uh-huh. And what part of that is included in Race-to-the-Top?

The money will be used to develop new tests, data systems for tracking the score of kids (although we already do this), implementing the new standards project that we got into because of Race-to-the-Top itself, and professional development programs for teachers. Teachers normally just pay for those themselves.

Last year's Budget and Education Reform Bill, commonly called HB1, already changed the standards for dismissing ineffective teachers.

So again. I don't get it. Some citizens will just beg educators to take their money. How long are they supposed to resist?

Youngstown educators worked for 18 months on the "Ohio Improvement Process" -- a plan for next year. The Academic Distress Commission tossed that out for their own plan, to be released at the end of June. Race-to-the-Top would require yet another new plan for the year in August or September. This is just spinning your wheels.

In fact because of the Academic Commissions actions, the system is frozen in stasis, waiting for that plan. Teachers and students will go into the summer without knowing the building they are assigned to for the fall. Not an auspicious start. The teachers idea is, well, why not get to the instruction of students?

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19Education_Voter(828 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Tookie,
Race to the top does include a provision that a district and teachers would enter into negotiatons around bonuses. However, they don't have to accept them.
This seems kind of strange, since Youngstown doesn't have the money to give bonuses, or even they say, the money to pay their teachers the base wage. For the fifth year in a row, the management has said there will be no cost of living increase.
You seem to think that enhanced compensation would be punitive. It wouldn't. But if it was, why would you expect the teachers' representative to endorse it? Would that be what a representative should do?

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