Rewards, Sanctions for Teachers Mark Ky. Proposal

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Seven months after the Kentucky supreme court held the state's entire school system unconstitutional, a task force is moving toward adoption of a comprehensive reform plan that, supporters say, could propel the state to the forefront of educational innovation.

Last week, the curriculum subcommittee of the task force appointed by the legislature approved most aspects of a plan to establish a school system based on rewards and sanctions for instructional personnel in individual schools.

The blueprint also calls for site-based management, ungraded primary courses, substantial staff re-training, new assessment tools, and greater use of technology.

The proposal was developed by David W. Hornbeck, a consultant from the Washington-based law firm of Hogan and Hartson hired to advise the panel. Mr. Hornbeck, a former state school superintendent of Maryland, currently serves as chairman of the board of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

"It is a comprehensive plan," Mr. Hornbeck said in an interview. "It has a number of key components that shift the focus from input to output, based on the premise that trying is not good enough."

"It is the results that count," Mr. Hornbeck added.

The full task force is hoping to agree on a complete plan, including school-finance and governance issues, by the middle of next month. Officials anticipate that the package then would be turned into legislation and moved through the General Assembly before the close of the regular session at the end of March.

Rewards and Sanctions

Under Mr. Hornbeck's plan, each school would be measured in terms of its progress over a three-year period. Schools would not be measured against each other, but only in terms of progress made over their previous performance levels.

Depending on the degree of progress made, instructional personnel would receive varying percentages of their normal salary increases and of special bonuses.

Funding for the bonuses would come from both state and local resources, Mr. Hornbeck said. "Every school can be on the plus side of the scale," he added.

Schools that show good progress also could be released from some state regulations.

In schools that made no progress or performed worse than before, salary increases would be denied to instructional personnel.

Mr. Hornbeck originally suggested dismissing the entire instructional staffs of schools with the sharpest declines in performance.

Because of concerns about the potential unfairness of such an action to new or able teachers at troubled schools, however, Mr. Hornbeck decided instead to propose creation of a category of "schools in crisis."

Students attending a school so designated would be allowed to transfer to schools that had been designated as successful, in some cases even outside their district.

The plan provides that if the departure of students led to a reduced need for staff, employees would be laid off in accordance with district policies.

The principal and instructional staff of a crisis school would be placed on probation. They would be subject to dismissal on the recommendation of "Kentucky Distinguished Educators," a new group whose members would be assigned to helping troubled schools over an extended period.

At the district level, a similar system of rewards and sanctions would be used based on district-wide performance.

New Assessments

Mr. Hornbeck's proposal would rely heavily on the creation of a thorough assessment system based on performance measures, similar to efforts under way in Connecticut. (See Education Week, Sept. 13, 1989.)

It will take at least five years, Mr. Hornbeck estimates, to develop a performance-based assessment system reliable enough to be the basis for rewards and sanctions.

In the interim, he recommends that Kentucky develop a series of tests in reading, mathematics, science, and social studies, to be administered in grades 4, 8, and 12. The tests would be designed to be comparable with the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

In addition to student performance, the assessment system would factor in dropout, retention, and attendance rates, as well as certain health measures.

Site-based management would be crucial to such a system of rewards and sanctions for schools and individuals, Mr. Hornbeck contends.

His plan would require all schools in the state to be operating in a "shared decisionmaking mode" within five years of enactment.

Each district would designate one school to participate in site-based management in the first year. After that, other schools could join the process if two-thirds of the faculty voted to do so.

Other components in Mr. Hornbeck's plan include:

  • Guaranteeing half-day prekindergarten programs for all 4-year-olds;
  • Abolishing grade levels before the 4th grade;
  • Expanding summer-school offerings;
  • Appointing a Board of Education Technology to map out a five-year plan for increased use of technology in the schools;
  • Creating "family-resource centers" in or near schools with high rates of poverty.

The centers would provide child care, parent and child education, and some health services.

Similarly, Mr. Hornbeck proposes the creation of "youth-services centers" in or near schools serving large numbers of poor youths over age 12. These centers would provide health and social services, employment counseling, and crisis intervention.

Both types of centers would draw on federal and state resources for education, job training, and social services.

Staff Development

"If you are going to have a system that does all of that," Mr. Hornbeck observes, "then you have to invest in substantial staff training."

During the first two years of the plan, the state education department would provide all districts with staff-development programs that concentrate on site-based management techniques, research-based instructional practices, performance-based assessments, and other elements of the restructured program.

Mr. Hornbeck proposes that school districts receive staff-development vouchers based on numbers of students, and that each district join a consortium with other districts to provide high-quality services.

To staff Kentucky's schools, Mr. Hornbeck's plan recommends crafting a quality scholarship program, revamping teacher certification, establishing an alternative-certification program, and establishing new prerequisites for principals and superintendents.

The plan would also recommend that teachers be employed year round every third year, to assure availability for staff-development activities and certification maintenance.

The curriculum subcommittee last week approved all parts of the Hornbeck plan except for some minor matters involving the system of rewards and sanctions. The panel's members are expected to approve that part of the plan this week.

Vol. 09, Issue 19

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