"That's what Jennifer Wiley concluded. She's the principal of Seattle's Franklin High School. Like in a lot of schools, the kids there no longer are cutting it in math and science.
Last year 94 of Wiley's 300 sophomores passed the state's math test. Only 34 passed science. That means nearly 90 percent of Franklin's 10th-graders failed the science test or didn't bother to take it.
Anyone can see that's a crisis. So Wiley jumped at a chance to shake Franklin up.
The school was one of seven low-income Washington high schools to get a grant to dramatically expand its Advanced Placement program. The idea is to get all kids to try an AP class, no matter how behind they are. Then support them, relentlessly, with extra tutoring, training and other expensive help."My first thought was "Ninety percent failed or didn't take the science test?" That's a lot of catching up to do because the science WASL will be mandatory to take and pass at some point (2012?). It's interesting because my son, a 10th grader, said that his classmates fear the science WASL more than the math WASL because they don't feel they were given enough preparation in middle school.
"They said no because they felt it was too much like merit pay," a disappointed Wiley said. "What I heard expressed is that in Seattle schools our values are more egalitarian and mutually supportive. They felt this grant would favor some teachers over others."
Hoo boy. Could we possibly be any more politically correct? Or self-defeating?"I can see his point but I can also see that for the union going down this road could lead to a slippery slope. Is it fair that high school teachers are eligible for extra cash that elementary and middle school teachers don't have access to? What about teachers in high schools who aren't trained to teach AP; would they resent their colleagues who do teach it? However, if teachers knew that they would be eligible for supporting students to do well, might it not encourage more teachers to teach at struggling schools?
He also says:
"Yet we're turning this down, on principle. Teachers, you could just give away your $100 payments. You could have even stuck it to the man by donating your "merit pay" back to your own union! Anything but this.
Not that it matters now, but this program also happens to work. For the students.
A Cornell University study in 2007 found that Texas high schools with the program, including the $100 payments, saw huge increases in kids both attending and passing the AP classes. There was a 30 percent increase in kids scoring at least 1100 on the SAT.
The payments "changed the culture," the study concluded. Academic rigor, like cash, became king."
He does have a point about what to do with the money. My thought had been to put all the money into a pool and split it among the teachers or have a nice lunch for all of them. Danny's right about donating it to the union as well.
As Danny said, it's a done deal now but maybe there needs to be discussion about this issue so that if there is a next time, there might be a way to find a plan to make everyone happy.