Grier Says San Diego Unified Unlikely to Secure Special Stimulus Funds
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.”