Saturday, May 12, 2012

DE DOE unveils a teacher incentive program with no rules, no benchmarks, and an $8.2 million price tag

DOE's Christopher
Ruzkowski, who will
be administering the
rather vaguely described
program for awarding
teacher bonuses.
So DOE announces
the names of schools that will be eligible to participate in a teacher bonus-pay program for schools with high needs were announced Friday by the state Department of Education.
Of course, a few of the details are a bit vague:
The $8.2 million, three-year program is meant to help reward and attract teachers to challenged schools in Delaware. Thirty schools were named by the state as eligible for the program, which will award a $10,000 bonus to certain teachers in these schools who meet yet-to-be-defined student test score goals set by the state. 
So, we're going spend $8.2 million to do something--we just haven't figured out how much of it you have to do:
Among the unanswered questions are what specific criteria will be used to determine which teachers will be eligible for the bonus.
Oh, and even if you sign up for the program, we reserve the right to change the rules in the middle:
The state is also not committing to keeping the rules for the program the same every year because state officials want to be able to make changes based on "lessons learned" as the state embarks on this new program, he said.
There's also, obviously, a significant amount of State intrusion and monitoring that will come along with this program.  How can you tell?  Try this:
It's up to school districts and charters to decide if they wish to participate by the end of this month. If they don't, their teachers will not be eligible for the bonus.
If this were a straightforward bonus-for-performance program, where we tested your students at the begining and at the end, and then sent you a check if you hit the targets, no school district in its right mind would have any qualms about signing up on the dotted line.

But that's obviously not what's going to happen.  At a guess, there will be required trainings that pull these teachers out of their classrooms, consultants they're required to meet on at least a biweekly basis, specific state-mandated strategies they will be "encouraged" to use, pressure to take time away from other activities/coursework to over-emphasize Math and English, and a loss of control by building-level administrators over their own teachers.

No, nothing in the article says that, but I have been working around these programs for two decades, and I'm quite willing to bet the farm that all of these things (and more!) are written into the program, because otherwise $8.2 million is enough to pay 276 teachers $10K bonuses for three years running, and we all know that ain't gonna happen.

Oh, and one last note:  How did five charter schools make the list of "high-need" schools, to be included in this program?  I'm a charter school proponent, but the whole idea of charters is that they step outside the existing system and use their creativity and exemption from many of the normal bureaucratic rules to do innovative things.  Somehow, signing your charter school up as a high-need school seems sort of like . . . corporate welfare.
I couldn't find a photo
of Nichole Dobo flat-
out laughing, so I settled
for what appears to be
wry amusment.

Some days I wonder if we should charge Nichole Dobo an entertainment tax for the privilege of getting to write this stuff up.  As she sits in front of her keyboard, does she go for apparently unintentional irony herself, or does she just use quotes from well-meaning but clueless bureaucrats to highlight the incredible ineptitude on display here?

But it is important to say how thankful the rest of us are that Nichole still has the stomach to keep reporting on all this insanity.


john said...


There are holes in this program, you have hit a few. I will list out several more.

1) DDOE selects the schools, NOT all schools are eligible. In CSD THEY have selected 7 schools: Stubbs, Pulaksi, Bancroft, Bayard, Palmer,Oberle and Glasgow SHOULD we elect to participate in what the DOE calls a "significant opportunity for your district"

2) ONLY DCAS teachers grades 3-10 are eligible, so hard working,ultra professional K-2, and 11-12 teachers who bleed, sweat and teach their guts out in the same selected building are just simply ineligible, either because they chose the wrong grade, or because the principal assigned them to a non eligible grade.

3) In the case of CSD, the criteria for selecting the schools, by the DOE is such that multiple other schools teach children with ALL and more of the same challenges, yet those teachers are also, summarily ineligible due to DDOE rule.

4) Literally, the DOE in Mr. Ruszkowski's invitation to participate letter states, after asking for the district's confirmation of participation: "We will provide you with more information throughout the summer about the program, including how educators are selected and any other additional policies that govern the program's implementation"

I'll note the complete dearth of evidence that this money will
A) retain teachers
B) promote continued success
or most significantly
C) lead to sustained improvements in student acheivement

at a minimum, it will reward past performance that is correlative, but certainly not causative.

I wonder what teachers not eligible in and out of the building that are eligible might think? I also wonder about the system wide morale impacts to the idea of a high performing professional enterprise.

john said...


If a district elects not to participate, will the state make up lies, trash them in the press, and threaten to withhold the remainder of the RTTT $$?

Just askin'

Steve Newton said...


why do you keep asking questions that are not only rhetorical, but to which you already know the answers?

one does wonder how using less than 10% of this bounty money could have kept Laurel from having to lay off teachers . . . .

Hube said...

So, we're going spend $8.2 million to do something--we just haven't figured out how much of it you have to do

Sounds precisely like what happened when DE was awarded at that RTTT cash ...


Nancy Willing said...

Thanks for the photo of Christopher
Ruzkowski. I have been wondering who he was since that sweet bit of hotness sat down next to Paul Harrell over my right shoulder at the Imagine DE forum at Clayton Hall.

Between the long curls, the earring, the tanned chisel of that handsome profile and the giggling relationship with one of DDOE's top administrative reps, I just HAD to find out the identity of Harrell's youthful pal.

I mean, the two of them really misbehaved that night.

After Jason Bernal of the Texas Yes Prep Charter franchise relayed stats to the DE audience -- like %100 of his students are accepted to college I jotted down...cute guy behind me with Harrell screaming WHOOOO HOOOO. And they kept up a chatter with private jokes during the presentation that drew several stern looks and shuuuuuussssshes from me over the two hours I was there.

There is not too much in how the seven charters were chosen to surprise me when you take a look at who is sitting on these boards.

Steve nailed it by pointing out that the who's who in DEL have gone a beggin' for their slice of corporate welfare here and I can't help thinking that the well-documented fundraising skills of Paul Harrell will be an integral part of Jack's bundled campaign cash this election year.