Sunday, May 06, 2007

Let's Give Batchelder an 'F'

State Rep. Bill Batchelder from Medina County is leading a Republican effort to give more money to wealthy suburban school districts. OK, that's not what he comes out and says. He says instead that he wants to spend an extra $6 million sending money to schools earning an "A," or "Excellent" designation on the State Report Card. From the ABJ:

    Majority Republicans in the Ohio House want to give thousands of dollars more to school districts that earn an ``A'' on their report cards.

    The proposal would cost the state about $6 million extra for schools, but it's important that the state set the precedent, said Rep. William Batchelder, R-Medina.

    The extra funding averages $30,000 for each of the 192 districts rated as excellent by the Ohio Department of Education.

    That's $10 extra per student.

    ``It just struck me that the way we were distributing funds made no recognition whatsoever of what teachers, administrators and students had accomplished,'' Batchelder said.
The problem is that all students don't come into school equally ready to learn and they don't receive equal support from their families. Suburban middle class kids are easier to teach than inner city schools, especially in the aggragate. Plenty of less wealthy people try hard to help their kids learn, but when the proposal is based on the performance of the entire student body, those kids will suffer because some of their peers will come from families that don't support learning.

In other words, this is a proposal that will benefit wealthy, suburban school districts.

It's possible that Batchelder's love for the proposal has something to do with districts in Medina County like Buckeye, Cloverleaf and Highland which score "Excellent" on the report cards, but face greater cuts because the system is taking state money from them and they can't get levies passed.

It's conceivable this could be fixed somewhat. It could be means tested. Better, it could be based on building performance as opposed to district performance. Best, it could be tied to performance on a revamped grading system based on a "growth model." That is, if the grading system assessed performance based on how much students improve as opposed to where they are, an incentive system might actually make sense. Until then, it's cover for giving money to the districts that need it least.

3 comments:

Daniel Jack Williamson said...

What Batchelder is doing, in this regard, is no different than what suburban Dayton, suburban Columbus, and suburban Cincinnati lawmakers have done for the past many years. If we're going to call Batchelder out, let's call them all out. It's just that the prior lawmakers didn't actually designate any money as an "incentive", instead, the portion of state funds received by suburban schools were just part of the "formula." ( . . . the same "formula" that was ruled as unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court, I might add)

We do need better performance out of our urban schools, but I think using money as the incentive is not clear thinking. Just as they say that funneling money into an urban school is not enough to fix the problem, neither is throwing money into an incentive program going to fix anything either. There has to be coordination of efforts between parents, students, and teachers, with each entity holding up its end of the bargain, in order to turn education around. How does money enter that equation?

Cee Jay said...

There are major problems when tying funding for education to student achievement tests. First, as Pho points out, all students do not start at the same place and many students in urban schools start out at a disadvantage. Second, all students do not have the same academic abilities. Third, the resources a school has both within the school itself and perhaps even more importantly in the students' homes and community influences the outcome. Students in urban schools are more likely to move around, so even if a school is doing an excellent job, the students that are being tested by the state this year may not have been the ones that particular school worked hard to educate last year.
Urban schools face tremendous handicaps when student achievement is used to "reward" schools with funding. Think of all the learning opportunities students have outside of school if they come from a home where the parents are educated and are at least middle class. They often travel on family vacations, attend summer camps, are taken to museums and libraries, are exposed to adult conversations, are often provided with music lessons, etc.
To assume that the educational outcomes are a only or even mostly a function of what is occurring at school and in the classrooms is ludicrous. Students spend about 1,080 hours at school each year (180 days x 6 hours a day. Some of this time is spent eating lunch, recess, etc. If a child spends an average of 3 hours a day watching TV and playing video games, they are spending more time (1,095 hours a year)in front of a tube.
Bachelder's proposal is like rewarding the winner of a race with
a headstart for the next race or giving the best bowlers on the team
some extra pins added to their score to reward them for being great bowlers.

``It just struck me that the way we were distributing funds made no recognition whatsoever of what teachers, administrators and students had accomplished,'' Batchelder said.

If achievement is to be used as a criteria for funding, sports handicapping makes a better model than what Batchelder has proposed.
Here is a definition of this practice for his edification. Handicapping, in sport and games, is the practice of assigning advantage through scoring compensation or other advantage given to different contestants to equalize the chances of winning. It is time to give the schools where students are struggling additional funding to equalize their chance of winning.

Village Green said...

I agree with both comments here. And would offer a better incentive: any school that achieves the score of Excellence should be allowed to determine its own dress code.