Thursday, November 21, 2019

Yes And

This tweet (shared with permission) really hit me where I live. Because defenders of public education have too often let themselves be pushed into a one-part argument when a two-part argument is what's called for.

Blame No Child Left Behind. It was educational baloney, but rhetorical genius. Every attempt to discuss the empty baloniness of it was met by the same response; "Well, then, which children do you want to leave behind."

Ever since, this has been the ed disruptors' framing for everything. If you want Goal A, then you must support Method Z. If you want accountability, you must support high stakes testing. If you don't like bad schools, you must support privately run charter schools (also, if you support freedom, you must support charter schools).

When pressed, reformsters double down on descriptions of the awfulness of the problem.

Reformster: Look at these test results. Look at these x-rays. You definitely have a brain tumor, and if it's not fixed, you'll soon lose feeling in your limbs and your legs will stop working properly.
Patient: Oh my God! Save me!
Reformster: Certainly. I'm just going to use this chain saw to cut off your legs.
Patient: Wait! What? How will that help with my brain tumor?
Reformster: Look at these x-rays! Look at how big it is! Right there in your brain! This is terrible!
Patient: But how will hacking off my legs-
Reformster: X-rays! Brain! Terrrrrrrible!

What's always missing is the link, the evidence that the proposed solution is the only solution acceptable to someone who cares about the problem. Question VAM and hg-stakes testing? It couldn't because there are real problems with those instruments-- the only possible explanation is that you hate accountability.

This is where we need "yes and"

Not even "yes, but." Because "yes, but" implicitly acknowledges that linkage as legit. "But" signals a change in direction, which suggests that the people you're butting were headed in the direction they said they were in. It lets things stay connected that are not truly connected. It agrees that some things are mutually exclusive, when they really aren't.

See, the problem with most of the reformster disruptive solutions is not just that they're bad practice, bad pedagogy, bad economics, or just plain bad. It's that they aren't going to solve the problems they purport to solve. It's a problem that some students attend schools that are under-resourced, under-staffed, and generally a mess. Charters will not solve that problem. It's a reasonable goal to provide students and family with educational choices. Modern corporate charters do not solve that problem, It is right and reasonable to have some form of accountability in place for public schools and the people who work there. High stakes testing soaked in VAM sauce does not solve that problem.


Yes, I want an end to high stakes testing, and I want a useful measure of accountability.

Yes, I want charters to be reined in with accountability measure, elected local control, and no form of profit attached to them at all, and I want to see every student in this country in a good school.

Yes, I want an end to programs that put warm bodies with inadequate training in classrooms, and I want every student to have a quality professional teacher.

Yes, I want to end all the practice testing and test prep, and I want us to get better at targeting and addressing the needs of students.

Yes, I want to chuck every foolish piece of ed tech in the ocean, and I want to find good classroom uses for current technology.

Yes, I reject attempts to make teaching jobs less secure and teachers easier to fire, and I want the teaching pool to get better and better, with fewer and fewer lemons.

Yes, I reject attempts to compare students in Idaho to students in Vermont, and I want parents to be able to know how well their children are doing.

Yes, I think college and career ready standards are a stupid idea, and I want every student to be able to move into a college or career that suits them.

Yes, I think rich amateurs should shut up and sit down on the topic of education, and I think we should be having a robust national discussion about education.

I could go on all day. You get the idea.

Look, we have real issues to deal with in education, and they've been largely exacerbated by rich and powerful amateurs who have shiny disruptions to sell. The other important part of "yes and" is that it allows us to focus on real issues and real solutions instead of getting caught up in arguments about whether or not someone should cut off our legs with a chainsaw. Granted, the chainsaw wielding pretend doctor is a real threat, but somehow we can't let him drain all our attention and energy. And we certainly need to reject and work past the notion that his solution is the only one that serious people can consider.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

David Osborne Tells The Big Charter Lie

Somewhere on the other side of the Wall Street Journal paywall, David Osborne is bloviating about why charters are swell and Democratic candidates should stop telling "big lies" about them. The WSJ undoubtedly considers this a real stroke of some kind because Osborne is nominally a Democrat, the kind Arne Duncan hugging, Al Gore assisting Democrat who loves him some charters just as deeply as any conservative.

I didn't read then piece, because I'll be damned if I'll give that Fox-in-a-fancy-tux news outlet any of my money, but I've been watching the conversation about it all morning, and I'd like to chip in two cents more, because even if David Osborne were right, he'd be wrong, and even the fileted chunks of his piece that I've seen are not countering the Big Charter Lie-- they are perpetuating it.

Leonie Haimson fired off a letter to the WSJ that she also posted at NYC Public School Parents, and it cuts straight to the chase.

Osborne is particularly upset about the scurrilous claim that charter schools drain revenue, and he offers as counter-proof that a school that falls below 75% enrollment can start renting out space to charters. Haimson reminds us that in NYC, public schools are forced to hand over that space for free.

Osborne also argues that in some states, the public school is "cushioned" from having money drained by charters, and he gets his list of states really wrong there, but here's the thing-- he's just indulging in the true Big Lie of charters. (His baloney about charters being public schools is just marketing baloney.)

Let's say a full cushion really happens. Let's say that in Pennshiretuckia, when a charter pulls $1 million away from a public school, the state just cushions that hole so that the public system doesn't actually lose any money. What is that cushion made of? An extra $1 million of taxpayer dollars! A "cushion" would be a de facto tax increase to fund charter schools! It's like this conversation:

Son: Can I have five bucks to buy gin?

Dad: Absolutely not.

(The next day) Son: Can I have five bucks for lunch money?

Dad: Sure. But what happened to the ten I gave you yesterday?

Son: I spent half of it on gin.

Dad: Well, thank God I didn't give you any money to spend on gin.

The Big Lie of Charter Schools is that we can fund multiple systems for the exact same cost that we spent to operate one. But no charter advocate has the balls to stand up and say, "I want to raise your taxes so that we can open new, privately operated, profit-generating schools in addition to the ones you're already funding." So instead we either force public schools to cut what they can't afford to cut, or we put extra money into the total education ecosystem and hide it as donations from rich people or grants from a government slush fund or nice words like "cushion."

SMH. Look, if you want something scholarly, there's a whole new study showing how North Carolina's charter system is gutting its public system. But this really isn't rocket science. As soon as you suggest that a "cushion" protects a public system from being harmed by charter vampires, you've admitted two things:

1) Anyone who doesn't have a cushion is being harmed and

2) The whole premise of charters for cheap is a big lie

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

PA: Charter Drains Public Schools, Now Wants To Absorb Them

This week the Philadelphia Enquirer ran the story of a charter operator that wants to take over all of a district's public elementary schools. This is perhaps a logical next step in a district that has been steadily and methodically starved over the past decade. Once you've sucked out the blood and consumed the flesh, what is there left to do but feast on the bones?

The school district is Chester Uplands, and they've been in the charter-related news before. Specifically, they were the poster child for how a careful gaming of the charter system in Pennsylvania could result in huge charter profits. As I wrote at the time:
The key is that while all CUSD students with special needs come with a hefty $40K for a charter school, they are not all created equal. Students on the autism spectrum are expensive to teach; they make up 8.4% of CUSD special ed student population, but only 2.1% at Chester Community Charter School, and a whopping 0% at Widener and Chester Community School of the Arts. Emotionally disturbed students are also costly; they make up 13.6 % of special ed at CUSD, 5.3% at Chester Community, and zero at the other two. Intellectual disabilities make up 11.6% for CUSD, 2.8% for CCCS, and zero for the others. 
Speech and language impaired, however, are pretty inexpensive to educate. CUSD carries 2.4% of the special ed population in this category, but the three charters carry 27.4%, 20.3% and 29.8%.
Back in 2015, this helped put CUSD in the astonishing position of giving more money to charter schools than it received from the state.

Gureghian's PA home, where he
no doubt sits and thinks about
how he does it all for the children
Meanwhile, the district has been under the supervision of a court-appointed receiver since 2012. The state takeover hasn't exactly helped; the administrative side of things is such a monumental mess that in 2017 the state auditor general aid his office could not complete an audit of the district-- too many records were lost or just screwed up. The third of the court-appointed receivers was re-appointed this year--and promptly to spend more time with his actual day job. This is not supposed to mess up the newest recovery plan roll-out, as that work is being done by some hired consultant.

In 2015 the district made a deal for charters to accept less money for students with special needs, but the cyber charters went to court to be exempted-- and the court eventually agreed, giving CUSD a huge retroactive bill to pay cyber charters.

The district has long been attractive to worst of charter vultures. Not just the cybers, but for-profit management companies like CSMI, founded by the infamous Vahan Gureghian, charter school multimillionaire and generous GOP donor.

Currently, charters enroll about half of the 7,000 student district population. CSMI would like to have a larger piece of the pie and run all of the elementary education in Chester Uplands, and it has asked the court to hand them over (because the district itself has no say in this). CSMI runs some charters elsewhere, including a school in New Jersey that is the subject of a whistleblower lawsuit. The suit was filed by a former principal who says she was fired for making a fuss over CSMI's policy of cutting corners to make a buck. Cutting corners didn't just mean cutting services; it also meant falsifying records and misappropriating funds. Great company.

The Palm Beach mansion Gureghian just sold at a profit.
There's probably a whole separate room just for thinking
about the children.
It is unclear how much money CSMI would make on the Chester Uplands deal because, as a private business, it doesn't have to account for its financials activities-- even though they are funded by trhe taxpayers. Do you see why, when someone like Cory Booker or Pete Buttigieg starts talking about how only for-profit charters are bad, they are just selling thinly sliced baloney. Chester Community Charter School is as non-profit school--that generates profits for the CSMI management company that runs it, and runs it like a business and not like a school.

The Inquirer quoted the CUSD school board president--his primary concern isn't the charter takeover of the elementary schools as much as it is the inadequate funding from the state. "Ask them what they have done for 25 years in Chester Upland." He has sort of a point, but the fact is that this non-weathy non-white district is in danger of losing all local control and voice.

This is what chartering as a tool of privatization looks like. Gut the public schools. Chase the students into profitable charters. Strip every last asset from the public school and strip all the power from the voters and taxpayers. Operate charters like businesses; every dollar you spend on students is a dollar you don't get to keep. Make some guy a multimillionaire while stripping public education and democratic voice from the members of a poor community.

Monday, November 18, 2019

PA: Vouchers Are One Step Closer To Ugly Reality

HB 1800, the bill intended to pilot vouchers in Pennsylvania, made it out of committee today. The vote was 13-12, with two GOP representatives (Rosemary Brown and Meghan Schroeder) voting no.

The precipitating excuse for this bill is the school system of Harrisburg, a system that has suffered from financial mismanagement and so was put in financial receivership, a sort of state takeover, last June. By August, House Speaker Mike Turzai was chomping at the bit, because after all, the state had had almost two whole months to turn things around.

Turzai is a Betsy DeVos fanboy with a long-standing dislike for public education, so Harrisburg's vulnerability must strike him as a great chance to once again try to sell vouchers to a GOP-dominated legislature that has already grabbed onto plenty of choice-flavored assaults on public ed.

The foot in the door is the classic voucher approach. It's generally "these will just be for the poor families" or "just for those trapped in a failing school." Turzai has always been a fan of the "We spent all this money on these schools and where are the shiny test scores?" line of reasoning, and Harrisburg schools don't have a lot of friends or political support right now, so they must look like a great chance to start the voucher train rolling in PA.

The bill is ugly. The state-appointed receiver is directed to offer vouchers, without caps and without oversight. Also, the districts have to provide transportation. Half of the voucher amount ($8,200) would come out of local money and half from the state subsidy. And the bill expressly forbids the state from forcing anyone to accept these vouchers-- so private schools can pick and choose which students they want to accept.

It's also worth remembering that where they have been implemented, vouchers tend to pump lots of public tax money into private religious schools.

In other words, this bill will literally require taxpayers to send their tax dollars to schools that may refuse to accept those taxpayer's children.

Turzai is floating the bullshit claim that this will somehow have a financial benefit to the district. It won't. It will drain millions of dollars from a struggling district, allowing only certain select students to move to voucher schools, without any oversight to let the taxpayers know how those dollars were spent. Plus that whole separation of church and state thing.

This bill is bad, bad news. It's another assault on public education, and honestly I don't know why conservatives aren't bothered by the whole "We're just going to send taxpayer money whereever and you don't get to ask any questions about what happened to it ever."

But the thing is out of comittee, which means it will be up for general vote at some point. So if you're in PA, now's a good time to get ahold of your legislator and ask them in forceful terms to vote "no" on this damned thing.

Pondiscio: Success Academy Is Better And Worse Than You Think

Robert Pondiscio is a senior fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a thinky tank steeped in conservative ed reform and staunch advocates of school choice, so one might expect that his book about Success Academy, the famous/infamous charter chain in New York City would be something of a puff piece, one more example of founder Eva Moskowitz’s broad and endless PR campaign. Indeed, the title How The Other Half Learns, seems like a bad sign-- Success Academy is not and does not represent half of anything, and to present it that way might suggest that Pondiscio is setting out a case for SA as an elite solution to education's problems.

It’s not that simple (which could be a subtitle for the book). Pondiscio brings a unique skill set to this work; he was a journalist for his first career and, in a real rarity for Reformsters, he taught in an actual classroom (five years in the South Bronx, not far from where the school that is the subject of this book now stands). Pondiscio enters this project as a fan of choice, and he leaves the same way, but along the way he gives a fairly unflinching look at his year inside the Success chain. Much of the book is commendably objective and reportorial, to the point that it can serve, as Pondiscio suggests, as a kind of Rorschach Test. If you are a supporter of charters and SA, you will find much here to confirm your beliefs; if you are an opponent, you will find many of your critiques confirmed as well. In fact, there isn't a bad thing you've heard about Success Academy that is not here in this book. If I had to pick a bottom line for the book, it would be this:

Success Academy schools are both better and worse than you think. Here are some things I learned from this book.

Success Academy Does, In Fact, Cream

But not the way they’re usually accused of. As Pondiscio details in considerable detail throughout the book, the charter chain doesn’t cream students, but families. From a demanding application process, through repeated meetings that lay out the demands of the charter, even through measuring sessions for school uniforms, through pre-school orientation meetings, Success filters out the parents who are unable or unwilling to meet their requirements. A kindergarten child whose family missed a pre-year orientation session without calling the school to explain their absence arrives on the first official day of school only to be turned away; because of the family’s absence, his seat has been given to a student on the wait list.

Success Academy demands a high degree of involvement from its parents, and only those that are willing to meet and keep meeting that demand make the cut. A not-inconsiderable number of families who make the cut will, after a tough introductory meeting, vote with their feet to attend elsewhere. In the end, Success Academy is populated with students whose families are willing to toe the school line, which helps with what may be the secret of their success.

Success Academy Thrives On A Monoculture

The outcome of that selection process is to find families that are a “culture match” for the school. Likewise, as Pondiscio puts it, “at Success Academy, adults speak with one voice.” The message, from top to bottom, is consistent. Curriculum, pedagogy, discipline, behavioral norms—it all is (or is meant to be) the same from classroom to classroom and building to building.

That monoculture’s reach extends to the home, where homework, reading, and other expectations are expected—demanded—by the school. Pondiscio depicts several school-on-parent interactions that will make public school teachers cringe. Not many parents would tolerate that kind of demanding tone, the kind of “tough love” that permeates the school. There is a central irony here—once these parents exercise the right to choose that Reformsters value so much, these parents will never have any real choice about their children’s education ever again. From sock color to paperwork, they will do as they're told until their child leaves Success Academy.

Parts Of That Culture Are Not Bad 

One aspect that every school in the US could borrow? The Business Operations Manager with a full staff that monitors and maintains every physical aspect of the school. It’s an impressive thing, though it also speaks to one of SA’s secret weapons—a whole lot of money. Still, every teacher who has waited weeks for someone from maintenance to answer their pleas to fix a thermostat or replace a light bulb will gaze in envious marvel at this feature.

Like many SA critics, I have been inclined to see the charter as a sort of grey Soviet Bloc factory, and the charters are, in Pondiscio’s words, “unabashedly behaviorist.” But coming through clearly in this book is the teachers’ love and concern for their students. And that helps feed into the culture’s demand that all these students will succeed (as SA defines success). In the hands of other teachers and staff, that demand to perform could be oppressive and even crushing. But the tempering love and support of the classroom teachers makes more explicit what is implicit in the demand “You will do this,” which is “Because you can do this.” We can, should, and will talk about whether or not the “this” is well-chosen or not, but if you believe an important, transformative element of education is having a teacher who believes in you and believes that you have what it takes, then Success Academy seems to have that.


The system puts an enormous value on compliance. Compliance by students, parents, teachers, administrators—communication is constant and much of it is about compliance, about making sure that everyone is in the same paragraph on the same page. Despite Moskowitz’s denial, Pondiscio rightly identifies SA as very much in the No Excuses camp, and that extends from everything to being on time to sitting to reading logs.

That comes with a huge amount of micro-management, particularly, it seems, of teachers who are seen as not quite on the right page. The staff churn is tremendous, moving both within and out of the chain, and the teachers are all young; someone who has a mere six years in the classroom counts as the building veteran. Pondiscio notes that the youth and inexperience doesn’t seem to get in the way of the school, but that’s because they are all fully set into compliance with the SA model, which, while it doesn’t go as far as actual scripting, expects all teachers at one level to be covering the same material in the same way on the same day at the same time.

It’s another central irony of Success Academy. Eva Moskowitz has made a career out of refusing to comply with school district leaders, civic leaders, or state leaders. But she would not tolerate that level of non-compliance from teachers or students in her charter school.

But is it a bad thing to have everyone on the same page, if it’s the right page?

The Problems 

First, that assumes that any one page can be the right page for everyone. That point may not matter here, since Moskowitz has filled schools based on selecting those who are on that same page.

But another notable feature of SA is how externally things are managed. Students depend on external verification that they have spoken correctly, walked correctly, set correctly. Part of the goal is empower them, and yet at the end of the day, what they’ve learned is that the power they have is to comply with a power greater than their own. This may be why Moskowitz’s first attempt as a high school, as chronicled by Pondiscio, was a failure. It was supposed to mirror a high-toned prep school, and she hired the people to do it, but they found the students weren't ready for it. Well, of course not-- they've enjoyed virtually no independence or self-direction in their academic career and depend on external control and validation at every turn. Also, children are much easier to push into compliance than teens.

There are also plenty of indications that SA is not on the right page. Pondiscio lays out how the SA approach to reading flies in the face of much of what we know about reading instruction. SA is also deeply attached to lexiles and leveling and uses those shaky materials in ways that even their creators wouldn’t approve of.

And then there’s the test. The great holy Big Standardized Test. Moskowitz takes the students to Radio City for a giant pep rally, and test prep dominates the school for a massive amount of time. Pondiscio gives ample space to the work of testing expert Daniel Koretz (author of The Testing Charade) in explaining the many faults, failings, and ill effects of high stakes testing. But in the end he waves it off with a “We could argue about this all day.” We could—but given the work of Koretz and Jay Greene, to name a couple, it would be a hard debate for test apologists to win. Test scores are Moskowitz’s big win, the achievement hook on which much of the charter’s press hangs (though, as Pondiscio notes, only recently have SA students started to score at all well on the city’s competitive high school exams). Are high test scores opening doors for SA alumni?

But perhaps the most surprising thing for me when reading was the degree to which Success Academy seems lost. This may well be my own Rorschach Test speaking, but in their extreme devotion to every single detail, the entire organization reminded me of a beginning teacher who isn’t sure what matters and what doesn’t, so she just lays on everything extra hard, or an English teacher who isn’t sure how to assess an essay, so scores heavily on the size of the margin and the placement of the heading. Each time I was reading about one of the caring, invested teachers, I wondered how they might flourish in a school that didn’t require them to spend their days enforcing compliance by narrating student sitting positions.

As recounted in many profiles, the school seems to exist as an extension of Eva Moskowitz’s will. She rejects the notion of outside consultants, yet rarely have I read her citing any educational research or expert writings to support her notions of how school should work. At one point, she harkens back to the 1940s and how much more smoothly schools worked then, not noting that those schools only served a portion of the population. But for me she and her schools jumped off the page as uninformed amateurs exerting enormous control with enormous certainty that they haven’t earned. And despite all of this, they are absolutely certain of their correctness. "We do it this way because we know it works,' is the message, both internally and externally, but it's an empty assertion (unless you think the purpose of school is to get scores on the state's Big Standardized Test). But that certainty--that unearned confidence is part of the sales pitch. Pondiscio notes that part of charter appeal seems to be safety, and this seems like an extension of that. What could be more safe than a school that confidently, convincingly argues that there is One Right Way to educate children and they adhere to that way, top to bottom?

The charter chain is neither scalable nor sustainable because it exists as her personal vision. It has nothing to teach other charters or the public school system. Get donors to give you lots of money? Teach only the students that will comply with your vision? Public schools already know those nuggets—but that’s not the mission for public education. SA parents echo the thoughts of many charter parents—the school is appealing because it is less chaotic and rarely disrupted, compared to the public schools. It’s a safe space; that’s the other part of its secret to success.

The Big Questions

Is that reason enough for it to exist, and what about the students causing disruption? Pondiscio, in one of his best lines, identifies an issue at the heart of the public vs. charter school debates: “A significant tension between public schools and charter schools is the question of who bears the cost and responsibility for the hardest-to-teach students.”

Who indeed? Pondiscio tracks down a student who disappeared during the year, and hears from the parents of a non-compliant child who was systematically pushed out, and he must reluctantly admit that the story tracks with many other stories like it, told by parents who found the school would use all manner of tools to convince them to get their child out of there. It’s not a good look for the charter.

But for all its faults, Pondiscio suggests, if Success Academy is providing what some parents want and those parents are happy, shouldn’t that be reason enough. Is it any worse than rich parents who buy a home in a nice neighborhood or send Junior off to Fancypants Prep School? I’d argue that it depends in part on the cost. The book ends with an analogy about a lifeboat, suggesting that charters are a way off a sinking ship. But if we’re building the lifeboats out of pieces of the sinking ship, leaving those behind in even greater peril—well, that’s difficult moral calculus. And if the lifeboats really aren’t any more seaworthy than the big ship, have we really saved anyone, or just kept them comfy a little bit longer? And why aren't we trying to do something about the ship instead of building these life boats? And what sort of equity is involved if the lifeboat seats are reserved for only the right sort, the properly compliant sort, of people? As Pondiscio says several times in the book, it’s difficult and complicated.

There's a lot more to this book, but this is already a long post. Read the book. Seriously. It probably won’t change your mind; I still would be leery of sending a child to Success Academy, and under no circumstances would I recommend them as an employer for a young teacher (and they appear uninterested in any other kind). But I understand what’s going on there a bit more clearly, and that’s not a bad accomplishment for a book.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

ICYMI: Soup Party Day Edition (11/17)

My nephew and his wife are hosting a big soup party today, which I'm pretty sure is a first for me. Kids these days. In the meantime, here an assortment of reading material from the week. Remember-- share the stuff that really speaks to you. That's how bloggers become rich and famous- okay, well, not actually. But it is how media outlets find out they should do education coverage, and it's how people hear about the things that you hear about.

LA Schools Graded F for 4+ Years Mostly Serve Low-Income Students

The indispensable Mercedes Schneider unravels how the Louisiana school grading system tells us what we already knew-- the measuring system favors schools with white, well-off students.

Betsy DeVos Might Outlast Them All  

She's not beloved, but she's probably not going anywhere, either. Rebecca Klein at HuffPost explains why.

Khan Academy: A World Class Education For No One 

Alex Lochoff bends over backwards to start by saying that he's not saying that Khan Academy is terrible. Then he does a pretty good job of explaining why Khan Academy is terrible.

What's Wrong With Teacher Raises    

Adam Laats takes a look at what's wrong with taking Hanushek's Grand Bargain of greater pay for tighter accountability.

Why I Won't Be Voting For Bloomberg  

Jan Resseger has a great rundown of Bloomberg's NYC education history, and why it disqualifies him.

Ohio Catholic School Announces Mandatory Random Drug Testing For All Students

Attendance at the school, says the letter sent to parents, is a privilege, not a right.

The Wrong "Scientific" For Education  

Paul Thomas looks at some of the recent uses of the S word and explains why they fail to impress.

Should A Cooperating Teacher Be A Big Fat Jerk?  

Okay, I rewrote Nancy Flanagan's headline, but the idea is the same. On the topic of making life harder for student teachers.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

FL: Yet Another Bad Plan To Not Increase Teacher Pay

So previously there was the Best and the Brightest program, which awarded teacher bonuses based on student test scores and the teacher's own SAT scores. From high school. It had a variety of problems (above and beyond the basic boneheadedness of the idea) and the new governor, Ron DeSantis found it "confusing."

Yes, you can still buy swampland in Florida
This newer, betterer plan comes along with the DeSantis First Year bump-- $600 million intended to increase the minimum salary for teachers to $47,500. Average starting pay in Florida is a hair under $38,000, which raises a whole bunch of questions about how, exactly, this is going to play out. Will some Florida teachers start at $47,500 and then stay there for the next ten years of their careers? Does the state and district pay for these increases by cutting from the top of the pay scale? And as with all of these minimum pay proposals, I look forward to negotiations between the state and local school boards over just how much everyone is going to kick in. After all, a local board member can logically conclude that they might as well lowball salaries and let the state pick up the slack. And what happens down the road when the state decides it doesn't want to fund the bonuses any more, and teachers suddenly get a big pay cut? And what kind of dope thinks that offering a big bump for the bottom of the scale will somehow make teachers want to come and stay for years-- oh. Never mind. This is one of those reformster burn and churn we-don't-0want-them-staying-long-enough-to-cause-trouble ideas, isn't it.

But on to the bonus plan.

The short form analysis is, it sucks.

First, it's a bonus. Teachers don't need bonuses. You can't get a house loan based on your bonus. You can't plan a future on a bonus.

Second, it is not, technically speaking, a teacher bonus. It is a building bonus. Here's the Miami Herald explanation, which was as good as any I saw:

The bonus plan is divided into three tiers: Tier 1 is for schools that earn 85% or greater of the total possible points or gain six or more points in their A-F school grading calculation. Tier 2 includes schools gaining three to five points in their school grade and tier 3 schools gained one to two points in their school grade.

Teachers in Tier 1 schools would receive up to $3,700, $1,750 in Tier 2 schools and $500 in Tier 3 schools. Principals would earn $5,000 at Tier 1 schools, $2,500 at Tier 2 schools and $1,250 in Tier 3 schools. Teachers and principals at Title I schools, or schools with a high number of students from low-income families, would get double those amounts.

So, a couple of things jump out.

One is that once again, bonuses are tied to test scores, which would be great if test scores were indicative of anything having to do with academic achievement. Instead, this looks in the face of a nationally decried over-emphasis on high-stakes testing and attaches more stakes to it. It actually offers schools bribe money to make the problem worse.

But on top of that, we know what test scores are actually tied to-- the socio-economic status of students. I suppose the Title I doubling factor is supposed to compensate for that somehow, but that's like an admission that your system is messed up from the start. Yes, growth is a big factor, but that's not really a help, unless your goal was to incentivize schools to identify students whose scores might be shifted enough to make a difference and then test prep the living daylights out of those children.

Just imagine being the principal at a Tier 3 school, trying to recruit great teachers and knowing that they've already looked at your "bonus" history so they are interviewing with you only as a last resort. It's an inequitable system, and that will drive people to move around and--oh.

This is, of course, just the governor's proposal at the moment, so we have yet to see what Florida's crackerjack legislature will do in response. Maybe it will be awesome enough to earn them a bonus.