Education Irony

Texas Education Agency gives $10 million to schools slated for closure in AISD repurposing plan

Like UN planes air-dropping burlap sacks of wheat onto starving refugees, the Texas Education Agency parachuted $10 million in grants onto the 100 low-performing Texas schools that most improved student test scores. Two of the schools slated for this late Chanukah present are in East Austin – Blackshear and Oak Springs – a rather inconvenient fact for the folks downtown who are trying to close Oak Springs as part of Superintendent Pat Forgione's wildly unpopular "repurposing" proposal. Irony lives on.

But the real irony (if we can call it that) is the way the Governor's Educator Excellence Award – pitched as an "incentive" plan when Gov. Rick Perry created it via executive order in November – is set up: Low-income schools that show the greatest increases in last year's test scores receive grants of between $60,000 and $180,000 to reward teachers. Now, the last time we checked, an "incentive" is a promise of a future reward designed to influence current behavior, such as the thought of a medal convincing Bode Miller to lay off the Jack Daniels (or not, as the case may be). These "incentives," however, are based on past performance that occurred before teachers knew any potential bonus was in the works. It also bears noting that both schools have high teacher-turnover rates, meaning that some of the money will go to teachers that had no hand in increasing test scores at all.

AISD, too, is currently kicking around ideas for an incentive program; the district's program, at least, meets the dictionary definition of "incentive." The latest policy football took place on Monday, when UT education professor Ed Fuller presented the findings of a teacher compensation task force that has been working for two years to find ways to better reward teachers. AISD loses about half of its teachers in the first five years of their careers, and the attrition hits East Austin schools hardest. On average, teachers in East Austin have less experience, move more often, and express less job satisfaction than teachers in wealthier areas. In addition to overall better compensation, the task force is encouraging AISD to develop stipends for teachers in hard-to-staff areas (like math or bilingual education) and struggling schools.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

TEAAISDRepurposing, incentive pay, Austin ISD, Rick Perry, Oak Springs, Repurposing

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