Last year, the Freehold Regional High School District moved 17 special education students from an out-of-district workplace training program into a brand-new, in-house program.
Keeping the students in Freehold saved the district boatloads of money — but it was also the best choice for their education, right? Probably.
Those special-ed savings triggered a $5,900 bonus for Charles Sampson, the district’s superintendent. Did the extra cash influence his decision-making? Hard to say.
We do know this: A school district’s choices for its special education students — or any students, for that matter — should be made only in the child’s best educational interests. Financial incentives shouldn’t muddy the waters.I'm sorry - did you just say financial interests shouldn't influence educational decisions?
Would a superintendent drag children from a private program that’s working for inferior classes that cost less? In most cases, probably not. But if that superintendent earns a cash bonus because the move saved thousands of dollars, parents can’t be blamed for wondering whether that swayed the decision.
The old lawyers’ axiom holds true in this case, too: The appearance of a conflict of interest is as bad as an actual conflict.So if, for example:
- A teacher had a "financial incentive" not to teach children in poverty because her Median Student Growth Percentile (mSGP) scores might suffer, which would affect her evaluation; or...
- A principal had a "financial incentive" to narrow the curriculum in his school because the test scores used in his evaluation only report outcomes in math and language arts; or...
- A teacher had a "financial incentive" to drill-and-kill on testing because even the research Michelle Rhee cites shows a positive (albeit small) correlation between test prep and scores...
That would be a bad thing, yes?
So why does the Star-Ledger advocate for teacher merit pay, inevitably tied to test scores, when it would create a clear "conflict of interest," incentivizing teachers to engage in behaviors that are not in the best interests of students?
Santa, all I want for Christmas this year is a local paper with editorials written by people who think a little before they opine. Is that really too much to ask?
Star-Ledger Editorial Board: "Merit pay is awesome! Except when it isn't!"
The Merit Pay Fairy says: "I waves my wand where Moran says to - no questions asked, capiche?"
ADDING: Please, S-L: no more education editorials until after the new year, OK? Let me live out the rest of December in peace...