Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Out with "Performance Funding." In with "Student Success Funding."

Posted By on Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 10:00 AM

From the people who brought you “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards" to replace "Common Core," comes "Student Success Funding" to take the place of "Performance Funding." The more the names change, the more the programs stay the same.

Gov. Jan Brewer and Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal got all kinds of flak from the right when they got behind the national "Common Core Standards." (The left isn't happy with the standards either, for different reasons, but that doesn't bother Brewer and Huppenthal much). So Brewer issued an executive order changing the name to “Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards," which changed absolutely everything nothing.

In the Brewer budget last legislative session, she proposed money for Performance Funding, which would give a bonus to schools whose students scored high on the AIMS test. One of the few things educators know for sure: no matter where you are in the world, higher income students perform better on standardized tests than lower income students. So the Brewer plan meant schools with students from high income families would get more money, and schools with students from low income families would get less. Oh, and as an afterthought, schools whose scores improved would get a little extra too. That's supposed to balance things out. It doesn't.

Dr. David Garcia, an ed prof at ASU who's running for Huppenthal's Ed Supe job, completed a rigorous analysis of the plan. Sure enough, he found that Brewer’s Performance Funding plan was a redistribution of school funding upward, toward students who have all the economic and educational advantages and away from students who need it most. I took a less rigorous look at the plan and got nearly identical results.

How did Brewer approach the problem? In her State of the State Address Monday, she changed the program's name to "Student Success Funding." Presto! Now she's rewarding "success" instead of "performance," which, I guess, makes all the difference. She's also asking the legislature for extra funding to pay for the program. Good luck with getting more ed funding from Republican legislators.

The early spin on the program is that it's going to reward improvement more — that's the part most likely to increase funding for low performing schools — and lower the amount that goes to the schools with high income students who get high AIMS scores. The change may make a bad program a bit less bad. We'll know when they release the details. But based on what I've heard in meetings from the folks who formulate Brewer's education agenda, I’m betting it’s no more than a minor tweak that will yield pretty much the same results as the original.

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