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Grier Says San Diego Unified Unlikely to Secure Special Stimulus Funds

Audio

Aired 8/12/09

San Diego Unified School Superintendent Terry Grier says the district may not be eligible for more federal stimulus money because the school board doesn't support linking student test scores to teacher performance.

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Video unavailable. Read transcript below.

Above: Education reporter Ana Tintocalis discusses why San Diego may not be eligible for a potential "Race to the Top" stimulus fund in education.

— San Diego Unified School Superintendent Terry Grier says the district may not be eligible for more federal stimulus money because the school board doesn't support linking student test scores to teacher performance.

The stimulus money, called 'Race to the Top' funds, totals more than $4 billion. The Obama administration is awarding hefty chunks of that amount to school districts that adopt innovative reforms tying test scores to the performance of teachers.

Grier has come under attack by San Diego Unified's teachers union in the past for supporting performance pay and data-driven teacher evaluations. He says the reforms can help improve test scores if implemented under the right conditions. However, the teachers union says such reforms are unfair to teachers regardless of their implementation.

Grier still supports such measures, but says three of the five school board members would most likely not support them. Those trustees -- Shelia Jackson, Richard Barrera and John Evans -- are largely backed by the union.

“I know that some of our board members are open to it, but I believe the majority of them are not,” Grier said. “I think given that, it would be very difficult to get any of the ‘Race to the Top’ dollars in San Diego Unified.”

Grier was also not optimistic for California’s ability to secure these special federal stimulus dollars.

Currently there is a California law that prohibits using test scores to judge instructors on a state level, however state education officials say individual school districts can set up their own systems.

Even so, there are only a few districts that use student scores to judge instructors. Last month, President Barrack Obama criticized California as a whole for not being more open to such tough measures. He says the reforms help to distinguish poor teachers from good ones. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan added to that criticism, saying the state is denying its districts millions of dollars in federal aid at a time when they need the money the most.

As a result, California senators will convene a meeting later this month to talk about changing the California law so that all school districts in the state can tie test scores to teacher performance.

Grier says the reforms can hold real promise if implemented correctly. Before his time in San Diego, Grier implemented performance pay for teachers as a superintendent in North Carolina. However, he says its ultimately up to the school board to make the reforms work.

“When done well, and when done in collaboration with teachers, I think it has some promise. I also think it has some potential of being misused. Its just like any other (reform). But again, it centers on your board of education and its philosophy.”

Comments

Avatar for user 'TruthinEducation'

TruthinEducation | August 14, 2009 at 7:43 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

Tying teacher salary or funding to student performance encourages cheating on state achievement tests. I have seen this first hand, over and over, as a teacher in San Diego County. Ten years ago, when Governor Davis, of CA, handed out large sums of money to all school staff in schools that met certain criteria for improvement on test scores, at least one large school in SDUSD was involved in a plan to cheat and did so. Each staff person received approx. $15,000. Ridiculous. I asked one of the people who worked there why she/he participated in this fraud. The response, "I had bills to pay and no other way to get the money." Then, additionally, the educator said, "I could never report my colleagues, the principal threatened our jobs if we told anyone." This was not an isolated incident. Even the No Child Left Behind Act causes enough constirnation with the threat of people losing their jobs and school closures, to cause cheating. Lastly, the public and the politicians should realize that schools are highly political. The cronies of the principal, who may be no good at all, but can make it look like they are, will end up with the perks. I am glad that the state of CA cannot link test scores to teacher performance. This is barking up the wrong tree and due to no accountability when these tests are taken, encourages fraud.

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Avatar for user 'Bioteacher'

Bioteacher | August 15, 2009 at 6:35 a.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

Cheating is only one potential problem. How can you evaluate a teacher's performance when up to half of his/her students are suspended? I had 2 honors classes where my students would have scored above the 95th percentile even if I did nothing, and I had one bottom track class with a failing rate of more than 50%, because they didn't turn in work or come to school on test days. Many were constantly suspended for drugs, fighting, threatening other teachers, etc. Many had more than 60 days (of 180) out of school. Would my bonus be linked to their performance? Favorites of the administration would get good classes and perceived "troublemakers" would get poor performance classes that could almost guarantee a financal penalty for honest disagreements. This becomes a tool of the administration rather than a plan to benefit students, and is unfair to teachers who really care. The efforts today are for alternative assessment. If students are poor test-takers, but understand and an use the material taught, is a single, high-stakes test, the best way to evaluate and reward good teachers? I think it is throwing money at a quick fix solution that will not imporve education. There are better ways to use Stimulus money. Since the money comes from taxes, taxpayers have a stake int he outcome. Post your ideas here.

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