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Title I Spending Rules Could Use Updating, Influencial Source Says

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In the weeks before the election last fall, Robert Gordon published an intriguing essay for the Center for American Progress, where he worked at the time. The title—"More Equity and Less Red Tape"—aptly summarizes what is a nuanced argument delving deeply into complicated rules governing how districts spend Title I money.

In the piece, Gordon argues that the federal government should abandon the "supplement, not supplant" rule and be more forceful about "comparability." Under "supplement, not supplant," schools are forced "to prove what they would have done in the absence of federal funding," Gordon writes. That creates a web of red tape that doesn't ensure districts equitably distribute resources, he said.

The "supplement, not supplant" rule wouldn't be missed if Congress strengthened the "comparability" rules, he argues. The current rule requires districts to provide Title I schools with similar services to those at other schools. But "comparability" would be much more powerful if it required districts to ensure Title I schools receive the same resources as other schools, Gordon writes. The change would create complexities of its own—particularly in the accounting for teacher salaries—but it would probably lead to an equitable distribution of money to schools serving low-income students, he concludes.

To deconstruct the title, beefing up "comparability" would produce "more equity" while getting rid of "supplement, not supplant" would result in "less red tape."

I revisited the essay this week because it helps explain how state officials could divert stimulus money for Title I away from districts, as some are trying to do. But this issue certainly will arise during NCLB reauthorization. And then Gordon will be able to do more than pontificate on it. He'll have the chance to sway federal policy in his new post as the person in charge of education issues at the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

1 Comment

David,

Thanks for the link. It raises questions that I’d really like to see discussed by people who know more than I.

Robert Gordon is clearly a believer in “Output” rather than “Input” accountability. That’s fine, and he’s not alone, but I’m curious what he really wants - equity for poor kids or equity achieved by his methods of accountability? If he and his allies stuck with the goal of equity, which is challenging enough, we’d have a better chance of giving poor kids a fair shake.

For instance, why bring up performance pay in a report on equity?

Gordon wrote:” By spending such large sums on these raises unlinked to achievement, districts are failing to act in ways targeted to attracting and retaining effective teachers. These inefficiencies are bad for all students, at all schools, regardless of income.

Faced with a need to increase funding in some schools without hurting the quality of education in others, a district will have an incentive to reconsider these practices and get more educational bang for its buck.

Many of us are equally sincere in our beliefs that test-driven accountability “are bad for all students at all schools regardless of all income.” Performance pay deserves equally scrutiny in another arena.

Gordon showed sensitivity to ½ of the districts’ problem with his suggestions. We don’t want to drive the (remaining) middle class away, leaving the poor even worse off. Gordon seemed to realize this and back off on his criticism of “gifted and talented” which may or may not be valid, but which is distraction to the big issue.

And Gordon seemed to show sensitivity to ½ of the other half of the problem - driving out teachers. THIS YEAR, as opposed to previously, the “reformers” call for comparability overall as opposed to comparability in salaries. And they speak of a seven year process where attrition (as opposed to moving teachers around like chess pieces?) could solve the problem. I still don’t think that Gordon, Roza, et al are sensitive enough or know enough of the people side of teaching. If I don’t have the personality to be an inner city teacher, you aren’t going to turn me into an effective one.

The better approach is to ask why young talent gets chewed up and spit out in hardcore inner city schools? Invest in alternative schools and then hold principals accountable for assessing disciplinary consequences, and then you can fire more ineffective teachers, and retain people who want to teach, but can’t be effective teachers when their first job is being a cop.

Which gets me back to my original point. I want equity, and consequently if I was in Gordon’s or Klein’s shoes I wouldn’t make my position, stated above, on creating a learning culture a prerequisite for signing a deal on fairness. I want community schools but I wouldn’t use equity as a Trojan Horse to defeat instructional strategies that I oppose.

I can’t help but think that the new generation of “reformers” are so sincere, and so confident in their ideology, that they want to engineer a system based on measuring learning, that allows them to move people around, just like they would move any other resources. Consequently, I want my union to negotiate in good faith, but I do not want the union to sign a deal without firm assurances that contractual rights will be protected.

This is frustrating because Obama presents such a great opportunity. If reformers would settle for a compromise, data-informed accountability but not data-DRIVEN accountability, we could make so many deals. (Reading Gordon’s introduction made me wonder if this issue contributed to the fiasco of the “rubber room.”)

For baby boomers like me, we have already compromised way too much on teacher autonomy and cooperating as much as we have on NCLB. I don’t care one way or another in regard to performance pay, but if the younger generation of teachers and educational leaders want it, that’s fine. I support performance pay out of respect for the younger generation who want it. So, I want my union to compromise, just as long as the deal does not damage my students by turning schools into nonstop test prep.

But reformers should show some respect for the principles of public education that are sacred to many of us.

My generation is at the top of its game professionally. We are old enough to want to avoid unnecessary fights, but I want to be clear. We don’t want to be fighting a younger generation of progressives. It would be a shame if History called on us to fight to the end against data-driven accountability. But if that’s turns out to be our mission, we have the educational, political, and legal skills for the battle.

We’d like our next few decades to be a great struggle for justice and we’d are poised to respond to President Obama’s challenges. I very much appreciate the way that younger reformers brought new eyes to the issue of equity. If we could agree to disagree on data-DRIVEN versus data-informed accountability, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to help poor kids.

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  • john thompson: David, Thanks for the link. It raises questions that I’d read more

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