Favorite

Check that gift horse 

Somebody has to look in the mouth of a gift horse – a bonus pay experiment in the Little Rock School District. The Little Rock School Board is set to vote today (Sept. 9) on using its own money to continue a bonus plan for teachers at Meadowcliff Elementary School. It was funded last year with $138,000 from an anonymous donor who laundered his tax-deductible gift through the Little Rock Public Education Foundation. The Foundation goes where the money is. The usual suspects – the Walton Foundation first – have very specific ideas about education reform. They think overtested students in public schools need still more testing. They hate unions. They believe teachers won’t try hard enough to educate kids unless you bribe them. This modern-day Good Suit Club of conservative businessmen failed to get a statewide “norm-referenced,” or national, testing bill through the Arkansas legislature in 2003. They hate the criteria-referenced state benchmark exam, which happens to determine school district success and failure under state law. So the Good Suit gang has turned to Little Rock as a laboratory. With the Public Education Foundation as a cutout, they’ve implemented and declared success on incentive pay at Meadowcliff. Dramatic improvements were recorded there on the national Stanford test results last school year and bonuses were paid. (They aren’t talking much about Meadowcliff’s results on the state benchmark test.) If 75 percent of the teachers at Meadowcliff vote to continue the program (and they will), the School Board is certain to pick up the tab to continue the experiment. I don’t oppose new education ideas. Some of the Good Suit Club’s ideas might work. But I’m leery of allowing an anonymous person to rent out the school district to test his personal theories. Plus, over-reliance on tests is a mighty incentive to teach the test and to manipulate test results. Add money to the equation and you increase the potential for fraud. If these programs do work, they should be offered districtwide. That’s what the Classroom Teachers Association asks. For its simple request to have its legal contract honored (incentive pay is allowed only on a school’s vote and board approval), it was blasted for hating education by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. D-G publisher Walter Hussman is a believer in “norm-referenced” testing and other conservative think-tank strategies (though not in sending his kids to public school). Little Rock school officials undoubtedly appreciate a ceasefire in D-G editorial abuse in return for implementing the publisher’s pet ideas. But that doesn’t mean Superintendent Roy Brooks should hop like a toad when Hussman or his shills say jump. The D-G editorial conveniently omitted the fact that the teachers union contract specifically allows merit pay plans. The union had earlier accepted incentive pay deals at Rockefeller and Stephens schools, but apparently was never told about the Education Foundation’s secret deal. The D-G and the rich private school patrons who bankroll the Foundation prefer to ignore contract law and demonize the teachers union as enemies of education. It is a blood libel of teachers -- and parents like me who appreciate them. We labored through dark years seeking quality education when too many others had given up and had taken their kids elsewhere. The Little Rock School Board should remember all of the constituencies it serves when it starts renting out district policy to rich folks with agendas. If it must take secret money, verify the results of the little schemes independently. It’s hardly surprising that the inventors and beneficiaries of such an experiment say it worked.
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Supremely discredited

    Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood and her allies continue to discredit the state's highest court.
    • Jul 30, 2015
  • Hutchinson pulls Faubus move

    I don't know what if anything might arise or be planned in the future relative to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's order to end Medicaid reimbursement for medical services (not abortion) provided by Planned Parenthood in Arkansas.
    • Aug 20, 2015
  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Stand up for Little Rock

    If Little Rock deteriorates because of substandard schools, there will be blame aplenty to share. But some elected leaders deserve special mention.
    • Feb 23, 2017
  • Home again

    The plan, formulated months ago, was this: Ellen and I were going to go to Washington for inauguration festivities, then fly out the morning after the balls for Panama City and a long planned cruise to begin with a Panama Canal passage.
    • Feb 16, 2017
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

"Locally Labeled" passport expands to accommodate booming brew scene

"Locally Labeled" passport expands to accommodate booming brew scene

As if great beer weren't reward enough, you can earn prizes for sampling local craft beverages

Event Calendar

« »

February

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28  

Most Viewed

  • Trump and Russia

    If you think about it, no wonder Donald Trump prefers the imaginative stylings of Fox News to the presidential daily briefing. He's pretty much the network's target demographic: a daffy old-timer with time on his hands.
  • Hating the media

    Presidents, with the exception of George Washington, never found much joy with the media, although Donald Trump is the first to use the scarily freighted words "enemies of the people."
  • Arkansas voters know what they want

    With a surprisingly strong vote, 53 percent of Arkansas's voters said last Nov. 8 that they wanted to bring medical marijuana to the state.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Trump and Russia

    • Well, I'm certainly glad that Gene Lyons finally describer himself perfectly: "a daffy old-timer with…

    • on February 23, 2017
  • Re: Future is female

    • i have been living with my wife for some years now,she has been keeping late…

    • on February 23, 2017
  • Re: Future is female

    • I am heartened by this needed push by women to represent us in government. It's…

    • on February 23, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation