"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More on 100% Solution - Weighted Student Funding

The authors of the so-called "100% Solution" ask, "How should different student characteristics be weighted?" They ask this in response to their proposal that "hard-to-educate" (sic) children receive more funds. But how do you determine how much each child gets? The authors admit, "WSF (weighted student funding) cannot work if there is not an accurate picture of the student population of every school. With more money flowing to students with greater needs, there will be great temptation for schools to exaggerate their students’ disadvantages. To ensure a fair process, the school should not have responsibility for classifying students."

As one way to crack this inherently corrupted nut, the authors sing the praises of the marketplace:

One approach is to set weights over time based on the “marketplace” for students that are weighted. In a comprehensive WSF system such as we propose, weights can (and should) be established such that hard-to-educate children become desirable for schools to enroll. Knowing that student performance standards must be reached, principals should find the weight for an at-risk child sufficient to make that child an asset to the school. Principals should seek out the children who bring with them weights that are at least sufficient to enable the school to meet achievement standards. Just as the free market sets prices for goods and services, the market for hard-to-educate children can determine their weighting. Principals and schools should seek to enroll hard-to-educate children because they know that with the money accompanying the child they can show improvement trends and reach performance levels. If this doesn’t happen, the district or state should adjust weights until it does.

So let me get this straight: under this proposal, principals will go out of their ways to find the most challenging "hard-to-educate children" because these children will bring more dollars with them.

But wait a minute: these extra dollars are supposed to be used to educate these so-called
"hard-to-educate children." If that's the case, then it's a wash. In other words, there would be no incentive whatsoever to enroll these children. It would take more money to educate them. The principals would get more money to educate them. The principals would spend the extra money on educating them.

Or not.

It would most definitely be an incentive for principals to enroll these children if they got the extra money to educate them and then spend the extra funds on whatever they chose: a new football field, a new air-conditioned teachers' lounge, a new set of textbooks from McGraw-Hill.

Ironically, in pointing out the possibility of corruption within the system, the authors have provided a new channel for corruption in a plan ostensibly designed to prevent it.

A disproportionate percentage of these
"hard-to-educate children" are black. A call to the marketplace to cure what ails them calls to mind a different kind of marketplace at a different time. But this marketplace was also designed to cure what ailed them. Their fates lay in the hands of the highest bidders.

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