Some people are born on third base and think they hit a triple.
The Obama-Duncan administration has placed its stamp on national education policy. The lure of billions of Race to the Top (RttT) dollars and the ESEA waiver process has resulted in states amending policies to make themselves eligible for funding. Think “30 pieces of silver.”
The State Education applied for a waiver from No Child Left Behind (fka, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) as did many other states. The administration, after a couple of frustrating years of trying to reauthorize ESEA created a waiver process, in effect sidestepping the legislative process.
The waiver is lengthy and complex. See summary here.
The waiver eliminates the terms “Schools in Need of Improvement” (SINI), “Schools Under Registration Review “(SURR) and “Restructuring” and uses the terms “Priority,” “Focus” and “Reward” to identify subsets of schools. The state, as usual, provides detailed data on “technical documentation,” the process for identifying schools.
During the process of applying for the waiver members of the Board of Regents expressed skepticism. Wouldn’t the priority/focus schools simply be a new name for the SINI/SURR schools? Would Reward Schools end up as schools in wealthy districts?
State Ed staff went to lengths explaining how the methodology for identifying Priority/Focus schools was a growth metric instead of the snapshot defining SINI/SURR schools.
Last week the state released the file. The 121 Priority Schools (See all schools here). included the 24 turnaround schools and many other schools with a history of poor state data, and, also not surprisingly, in the poorest zip codes in their communities.
The Reward Schools are located in the highest income communities around the state and in New York City a combination of selective and screened schools as well as in the highest income districts.
Schools in richest communities around the state and schools that can handpick their student bodies will receive additional dollars while schools in the poorest areas get to write plans for improvement … and in three years I guess, will close.
Why is Stuyvesant a Reward School? If students have to pass a rigorous exam, according to Inside Schools, “… more than 28,000 students vie for 935 seats in the freshman class,” is there any surprise that the school has exemplary data?
If you are a screened school, you pick your kids, and if you’re not a Reward School, does that mean you should really be a Priority or Focus school? If kids do not achieve at the high level anticipated is the school failing?
We should be asking why are a few schools in high poverty areas succeeding while most are stumbling? Are they cheating? Creative and effective school leaders? Smart, collaborative teachers? The current system of writing plans and threatening schools with closing is certainly not working.
Are schools in high tax, high wealth districts with high achieving students actually showing growth? Or, are the districts simply riding on what the kids brought to school? Does the SED want to let the genie out of the jar?
I fear increasing the speed on the treadmill is not moving our schools forward.