More on ‘The Prize’

bowl-817780_1280Dale Russakoff was interviewed on NPR’s program Fresh Air today.  Her comments were similar to those I reported yesterday.  She added a few points that are important to consider:

  • Newark’s schools receive close to $20,ooo per pupil, but the district overhead consumed about one-half of the per pupil cost.  This is another world from Florida where our per pupil expenditure is just over $7,000.  Even though Florida has not state income tax and may be a less expensive state in which to live, New Jersey citizens do a  better job of supporting their schools.
  • Newark’s charter schools were more successful than other charter schools in New Jersey and across the country.  The KIPP school used as an example, had two teachers per grade through third grade plus a learning aide.  The school had about 500 students and had three behavior specialists.  A family member was designated as a ‘learning’ partner for each student.
  • The KIPP school produced significant learning gains.  The school did not have the same proportion of  children from ‘at risk’ families; their were also many fewer  students with disabilities.
  • Russakoff credited the additional funding for charter classroom teachers and aides for the achievement gains.
  • District teachers were expected to increase the hours and days worked for the equivalent of about $10 an hour.  Unions resisted a policy of dismissing teachers without regard for seniority.  (Their was an assumption that if teachers had to be dismissed due to declining enrollment (due to increasing charter enrollments), that higher paid teachers with more experience would be cut to save money.
  • Russakoff interviewed the psychometrician who developed the achievement gain score system that is now used for teacher evaluation.  He stated that the gain scores were never intended to be used to evaluate teachers.  Gains in student learning are the result of many factors outside the teachers’ control.

While Russakoff stated that charter schools were needed to reform schools, the rationale was not that better learning occurred in charters per se.  The Newark district was so immeshed in complicated contracts, regulation and paper work, it was ineffective in bringing about change.  Charters, with less regulation and much more money, could create change.  The amount of money for classroom instruction and student support were the operative factors.

 

 

Posted in Achievement, Charter Schools, Funding, Reform.

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