Friday, June 12, 2015

IMPACT Teacher Bonuses Haven’t Had Much Impact on Test Scores in D.C. Public Schools

Money can't make dumb kids smart.  If your theory is wrong, you won't get the results you expect. And the result below shows the falsity of "All men (and kids) are equal".  Any informed psychometrician would have predicted these results -- despite the great and worthy efforts of Ms Rhee

Despite spending millions of dollars on teacher bonuses and incentives, a new report reveals that disadvantaged students enrolled in the D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) have made little progress since the school system was reformed to great national fanfare eight years ago.

In 2007, the D.C. Council passed the Public Education Reform Amendment Act (PERAA) which created a school chancellor who, along with the mayor, would have control over the city’s struggling public schools rather than the city’s Board of Education.

Michelle Rhee, the DCPS chancellor from 2007 to 2010, gained national attention in 2009 for creating IMPACT, a pay-for-performance evaluation system that monetarily rewards teachers based on students’ test scores, classroom observations, quality of the school community, and the educators’ overall professionalism.

The IMPACT program cost $3.2 million in FY 2010 and $3.9 million in FY 2011. It was originally funded by private sources, but taxpayers had to pick up the tab after the end of the 2012 school year when the private funding ended.

Since then, the District of Columbia has spent millions of dollars on IMPACT bonuses. According to the DCPS FY 2014 budget, the program cost over $3.6 million last year alone.

However, there is little academic progress to show for eight years of IMPACT incentives, with more than half of the system’s black and Hispanic students still failing to reach grade-level benchmarks in reading and math.

“More than half of black and Hispanic students, those with disabilities, those eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, and English language learners score below proficient, and there is little evidence that these gaps are narrowing significantly,” according to  a new study by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Some improvement is evident since 2009, but more than half of these students still score below proficient. There is little indication that these performance disparities—in test scores or in graduation rates—are lessening,” the study noted.

The NRC report states that 80 percent of the public school teachers in D.C. who were rated by IMPACT as “effective” or higher in 2013-2014 returned to teach the following year. However, they were not evenly distributed throughout the school system.

“The lowest-income students tend to have teachers with the lowest IMPACT scores,” the NRC report stated , “and this relationship persists even when average IMPACT scores are compared across the schools within a single ward.”

The distribution of “effective” teachers was not the only distinction between the city’s affluent and disadvantaged wards. Advanced Placement courses are not as available to students in low-income areas as they are to others living in more affluent areas, according to the report.

Similarly, although graduation rates have fluctuated since 2007, they “remain disturbingly low” for minority and low-income students, the report states.

Test scores have also shown a lack of improvement for certain student groups.“Black and Hispanic students, those with disabilities, those eligible for free or reduced price lunches, and English-language learners are much more likely to be in the lowest performance categories than other students,” the NRC report noted.

According to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), D.C. students scored below the national average in 4th and 8th grade reading and math tests.

In reading, 4th graders in D.C. scored 205 compared to the national average of 220 and 8th graders scored 247 compared to the national average of 266. In math, 4th graders scored 228 compared to the national average of 241 and 8th graders scored 265 compared to 283.

But disadvantaged 4th graders in D.C. only scored 194 in reading - 13  points lower than the national average of 207 for their low-income peers. And DCPS’ 58.3 percent graduation rate is also considerably lower than the 2013 national average of 81 percent.

Low test scores and high drop-out rates existed in D.C. before the IMPACT program, and were a major factor in the development of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a federally-funded program created in 2003 that gives vouchers to low- income students to help them attend private schools.

Six years later, the Obama administration purposely allowed the voucher program to expire. However, in 2011, House Speaker John Boehner and then Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) created the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act which re-established funding to the program.

Currently, 1,442 D.C. students receive vouchers to attend private schools. The voucher program had an 89 percent high school graduation rate in 2014, which was higher than the national average.

However, President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget has cut funding to the D.C. voucher program.


Sugar Daddy Obama to Forgive Student Loans

In April, we noted a bid by former students of Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit higher education company, to stop paying their loans on grounds they had been defrauded. Corinthian went out of business and its graduates are having trouble finding work.

But they found an ear at the White House. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Monday a new program to forgive the loans of students of Corinthian or other schools that are found to have defrauded their students.

The effort to set things right and make these defrauded students whole may be honorably intentioned, but the cost to taxpayers could be immense. If all 350,000 Corinthian graduates over the last five years applied for relief, the tab could reach $3.5 million. And that doesn’t count previous Corinthian students or students of other for-profit colleges.

One gets the feeling the door has been opened for a massive new entitlement, especially given how far the federal government is already involved in student lending. Indeed, Duncan said as much: “This is our first major action on this but obviously it won’t be the last.” Because who could say no to helping those in need?


Nevada Education Accounts … Not Your Father’s School Choice Program

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval made education reform history last week when he signed the nation’s first universal education savings account program into law.

The accounts are designed to give every Nevada student who has been enrolled in public school for at least 100 days an opportunity to have an educational experience tailored to their individual needs. This is one step forward for school choice, but it is one giant leap for how our nation understands schooling.

This is precisely what Washington Post authors Lyndsey Layton and Emma Brown get wrong in their analysis of the program last week.

“Since 2006, 27 states have opted for one of three methods that transfer public tax dollars to private schools: Vouchers for students from low- and middle-income families or disabled students; tax credits, up to 100 percent of tuition, for donations to private school scholarships; and education savings accounts, which allow qualifying families to use public funds to pay for private school tuition, tutoring, online education and other services,” wrote Layton and Brown.

“Under the law that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed Tuesday, children must be enrolled in a public school for at least 100 days before they can receive a voucher.”

Education savings accounts represent school choice 2.0. Vouchers were the rotary phones of school choice—a necessary step but not the final destination. Education savings accounts are the smartphones. “We are heading in the direction of iPhone choice programs—they still do that one thing well, but they also do a lot of other things,” said Dr. Matthew Ladner, senior fellow at the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Hatched in Arizona in 2011, education savings accounts give parents “debit cards” they can use to pay for pre-approved educational options. This new method places students’ needs first instead of funding a system that may not work for them.

In Nevada, students who qualify for free and reduced price lunch can have 100 percent of the state per-pupil funds that would have been spent on them in public school deposited into the account to be spent on education products or services such as private school tuition, textbooks, curricula, online courses, dual enrollment college courses and AP exams. Students who don’t qualify for federal free and reduced lunch can have 90 percent of their per-pupil expense deposited into their account for the same allowable uses. Unused funds can even roll over from one year to the next.

This ability to separate the financing of education from the delivery of services has the potential to transform the educational landscape of America—which has significant room for improvement. The most recent National Assessment for Educational Progress scores show only 26 percent of high school seniors are proficient in math and just 38 percent in reading.

Massive centralization and spending haven’t catalyzed academic improvements, but education choice options have led to increased graduation rates, increased parental satisfaction and increased college enrollment.

Decentralizing education and placing accountability back in the hands of parents, who are closest to the students and know the needs of their children best, is student-centered education reform. Building on the conceptual foundation of vouchers economist Milton Friedman established in 1955, universal education savings accounts are, to date, the ultimate in school choice because they enable all students to have access to a top-notch, customized education that meets their unique learning needs.


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