Friday, September 24, 2010

DISTRICTS MISS OUT ON FEDERAL GRANTS: 2 Rural Districts, Charters get money

By John Fensterwald - Educated Guess |

Posted on 9/23/10 -- Two charter school groups and two rural districts are the only California recipients of the U.S. Department of Education’s  $1.2 billion Teacher Incentive Fund. The grant competition is designed to spur school districts to tie teacher and principal evaluations and pay to performance.

Most large districts in California steered clear of the program, reflecting the California Teachers Association’s opposition to performance-based pay and school boards’ skittishness over pressing the issue. The four grants to California charters and districts, totaling $29 million, represent only 2 percent of the five-year awards.

The big bucks went to the bold: $27 million to the Massachusetts Department of Education to attract and reward effective teachers in 22 “turnaround” schools in Boston and Springfield (rewards of $15,000 for teachers, up to $20,000 for principals); $52 million for performance-based pay in six districts in Maricopa County, Ariz.; and $40 million to the New York State Dept. of Education to create performance-based pay for 68 schools in Rochester, Yonkers, and Syracuse.

The largest California grant – $11 million – will go to The College-Ready Promise, a consortium of charter management organizations in Los Angeles that earlier this year was honored with a seven-year, $60 million grant from the Gates Foundation for teacher and principal development, including designing a “value-added” pay system. The organizations are Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, ICEF (Inner City Education Foundation) Public Schools, Green Dot Public Schools, PUC (Partnership to Uplift Communities) Schools, and Aspire Public Schools. The groups are pledging that at the end of five years, 70 to 75 percent of elementary students in their schools will score at advanced or proficient levels on the state standardized tests, and twice the current percentage will enter college fully prepared for college-level work.

Also receiving money: $4.6 million to the Northern Humboldt Union High School District; $7 million to the 11,000-student Lucia Mar Unified along coastal San Luis Obispo County; and $7 million to ARISE High and three other Alameda County charter schools with 1,000 students. Four-year-old ARISE, located in Oakland’s low-income Fruitvale district, is affiliated with Mills College. Its standardized test scores dropped last year, pushing the school into Program Improvement under No Child Left Behind; as a result, the school will be designing evaluations partly tied to improved scores, said Co-Principal Romeo Garcia.

California districts stood a good chance of getting the money, had more of them applied. The Department of Education awarded 62 grants out of 96 applicants – far better odds than under No Child Left Behind, the i3 grants, and other Obama programs. A dozen California districts applied, including San Francisco Unified and the Riverside County Office of Education.

There is a catch: Congress has yet to approve the first two of the five-year grants; the awards assume that it will. At the end of five years, schools are expected to fund the incentive-pay systems on their own or with foundation help.


●●smf’s 2¢  There are two more catches. re: “The groups are pledging that at the end of five years, 70 to 75 percent of elementary students in their schools will score at advanced or proficient levels on the state standardized tests.”

Catch 2.1: No Child Left Behind mandates that ALL STUDENTS AT ALL SCHOOLS score at advanced or proficient levels by 2014; five years is 2015. By federal law schools not performing at universal proficiency are subject to reconstitution or takeover.

Catch 2.2: In five years there will be no state standardized tests, all is to be replaced by a federal assessment.

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