Monday, May 12, 2008

We've got the money

It's been hard to keep up with MNPS and homeschooling fights at the legislature at the same time but in skimming the City Paper's article of last Friday this jumped out:

[Connie Smith, accountability head for the Tennessee Department of Education] told the board that many of the district’s NCLB problems can be addressed with the funding already available, if those dollars are targeted specifically to problems identified by AYP failings and by state audits.
I wonder if MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden (District 9-Bellevue) would have admitted the following if she was still running to keep her position:
“Math is the issue,” said board chair Marsha Warden on Thursday. “We have deficiencies in math, pretty much [in grades] ‘K’ through 12.”
And this doesn't make sense to me:
One challenge Metro schools — as well as many other public school districts across the nation — faces in improving math proficiency is finding staff members. According to Warden, the district was able to significantly improve reading skills by making the “best and brightest” teachers reading specialists, allowing students to receive individualized, in-depth instruction.

The strategy doesn’t work as well with math teachers, Warden said, because turning a talented math teacher into a math specialist often leaves voids in classrooms that are hard to fill.

“We can’t replace those positions,” Warden said. “[Many of the people] with math skills [are] not teaching.”
And creating reading specialists that allowed individualized, in-depth instruction for students didn't create any voids in the classrooms? Why can't those math teachers be replaced? This reads like we've got 'untalented' math teachers. If that's the case--I'm all for swapping out a few untalented for talented and paying the talented more if the going rate hasn't been enough to attract them.


Staying Under The Radar said...

Have you not heard? There's a district/state/nationwide shortage of qualified math and science teachers ... unlike reading and language teachers, of which there seems to be plenty to go around ...

Nashteach said...

Well, I respect what Smith has done over the last year as we've been on target, but the state has a specific goal: to get us out of corrective action; with this goal, Smith has to be hyper-focused on NCLB. Not to diminish that, but we should be careful of ignoring those students succeeding beyond minimal skills. I worry her spending suggestion might do just that.

We've got plenty who succeed; they don't get extra money, in fact, they often sacrifice it for others. There's no "graduation counter" on somebody's blog measuring how many are on track to graduate. They're doing well, so for NCLB, the heart wrenching media stories and the political posturing, they're not as relevant. Don't be surprised next year when we're asking where they went.

Don't even get me started on all the "specialists." Smith's comment makes it sound like we haven't already reallocated funds to address struggling students. We've been doing it for a generation. And there's already a plan in the works to give extra money to teachers in hard-to-fill areas who go to "At risk" schools. Fine, but without addressing the conditions in these schools, it's mainly just an exercise in compensation, not a lasting solution.