Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The running of the rabbits

A week ago I wrote about former Gates Foundation lieutenant, Tom VanderArk and the way he wanted to divide states seeking stimulus money, up between rabbits, rebels and laggards. The laggards, those states that might question VDA's (Duncan's) 8-point reform package, would be hard pressed to receive any federal dollars, if he had his way. As an example of a rabbit state ("those ready to move") VDA offered up only Florida, even though it's the state with the lowest high school completion rate in the nation.

What then does he like about Florida? He says, they "put data to work to narrow the achievement gap."

Well, according to the Palm Beach Post, they sure put data to work all right. Half of Palm Beach students performing below grade level attend A-rated schools. The Post reports that Palm Beach County's highest rated A schools do no better than D and F schools at teaching the students who are most behind.
That stinging indictment comes directly from the Palm Beach County School District in a proposal for a $120 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Usually district administrators tout Palm Beach County as a shining star among the state's urban districts, the only one to earn an A rating five years in a row.
As you might expect, PB district leaders blame the failure completely on the teachers. claiming in their Gates grant proposal, that, "70% of their teachers are ineffective." That alone ought to get them some Gates money. The district's grant proposal calls for shifting over to merit pay, paying teachers on the basis of test scores and dividing them up into one of four categories: associate, professional, master and Palm Beach Certified.

How will that improve teaching/learning for the bottom quartile of students? Well maybe Tom VanderArk can explain that to us. In the meantime, Florida's data gathering system (grading of schools A to F) continues to make it the laughing stock of the nation.

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