Could they actually be right?
Angry Andy Cuomo had said that districts wouldn't be punished for high opt-out rates. But it looks like schools that have significant numbers of kids who don't take tests are less likely to be eligible for these grants:
Wait -- there's only a 6 percent chance of NYC schools actually getting money, even if they are "Reward" schools? Doesn't seem like most of these schools were going to miss out on much -- but all this raises an interesting question...
If these grants only go to "Reward" schools, what does it take to get "rewarded"?
In other words: are there any characteristics that "Reward" schools, which get a crack at additional funding, share? To answer that question, let's compare "Reward" schools in New York State with "Priority" and "Focus" schools, which have been identified this way by the NY State Education Department (NYSED):
I'll bet you already know exactly where this is going (click to enlarge)...
- Focus Districts have schools with low academic performance on the Grades 3-8 ELA and Math Tests or low graduation rates for certain groups of students, such as those who are economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, and English language learners. The performance of these schools is not improving.
- Focus Schools are schools within Focus Districts that have low academic performance that is not improving.
- Priority Schools are schools with the overall lowest student academic performance on state assessments and persistently low graduation rates.
Want to become a "Reward" school in New York State, and avoid getting designated as "Focus" or "Priority"? First thing you need to do is make sure you keep your Limited English Proficiency (LEP) rate low; no foreign language students for you. Next, make sure you have small proportions of students of color, either black or Hispanic. Then stock up on Asian and white kids.
Bad as all that is, the two columns furthest to the right make the situation even more awful. Incredibly, the schools New York State punishes have many more students proportionally who have a learning disability (SWD) than the schools the state rewards. And "Focus" and "Priority" schools are far more likely to have large proportions of students who are in economic disadvantage.
Am I the only one thinks it's insane to make special grants, even if they are small, available to schools that serve fewer students of color, fewer students with special needs, fewer students who speak a language besides English at home, and fewer students who are in economic disadvantage?
New York State already engages in all sorts of stealth inequities when it comes to funding its schools, as this report by Bruce Baker notes.* A few $75K grants are small change compared to the literally billions have that have been denied to New York's neediest school districts. Still, it's amazing that a grant program like this, which rewards schools enrolling the least needy students, exists.
Just once, I'd like the opt-out scolds to acknowledge some of this. Just once, I'd like them to point out how illogical it is for politicians to simultaneously demand that schools meet new high standards while refusing to provide the money their own laws say is necessary to properly fund education systems. Just once, I'd like them to stop worrying so much about students who opt-out of tests, and start worrying about politicians who opt-out of funding the schools that enroll the neediest students.
But that doesn't tell the story the opt-out scolds' patrons want to tell, does it?
My new favorite cartoon. via Jeff Parker.
*As always, Bruce is my advisor at Rutgers GSE. He also diid a similar analysis of New Jersey's "Priority," "Focus," and "Reward" schools back in 2012.