Education Week - January 22, 2014 - (Page 6)
Funds to End
For Little Rock
By Evie Blad
A federal judge approved a settlement be-
tween Arkansas and three Little Rock-area
school districts that sets an end date for decades
of state desegregation aid that has totalled
roughly $1 billion.
Some praised the agreement as the end of
a long chapter in the history of a city whose
struggles with school segregation date back
to the tumultuous 1957 integration of Central
High School by nine black students. That
event, following on the heels of the U.S. Supreme
Court's landmark 1954 ruling in Brown
v. Board of Education, was seen as pivotal in
the national movement to desegregate schools.
"Let's put this case in the books and move
on with being partners in education rather
than adversaries in court," Arkansas Attorney
General Dustin B. McDaniel said after
U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr., the
latest judge to oversee the case, approved the
agreement in a Jan. 13 bench ruling.
Others lamented persistent achievement
gaps between black students and their higherachieving
white peers in the Little Rock area
and said progress toward integration could
erode without continued financial support and
"The situation is pretty much the same as
it was many years ago when we began," John
W. Walker, an attorney who represents an intervening
group of black students in the case,
told reporters after the hearing.
The agreement replaces a 1989 settlement
under which the state collectively paid the
Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Pulaski
County Special districts about $70 million annually
to support programs designed to rebalance
the racial composition among the three
school systems, including interdistrict magnet
schools and transportation for students from
areas where they are the majority racial group
to schools where they are in the minority.
That settlement followed a 1982 lawsuit by
the Little Rock school district, which alleged
that the state fostered policies that led to concentrations
of black student enrollment in the
city's public schools.
Under the newly approved agreement, the
state will continue providing the desegregation
aid for four years, with the fourth year's
funding earmarked for facilities projects in
the school systems.
The Pulaski County Special School District-the
only one of the three that hasn't
been deemed fully unitary, or in compliance
with its court-approved desegregation plan-
will work with the black student intervenor
group to meet its remaining desegregation
goals, which include improving the poor conditions
of facilities in parts of the district that
enroll more black students and evening out
disparate discipline rates, Superintendent
Jerry D. Guess said.
'Served Its Purpose'
Mr. Guess, a longtime Arkansas educator,
previously led the state's Camden district as
it achieved unitary status.
"I believe that this case has served a very
important role in Arkansas education," Mr.
Guess said of the Little Rock case. "It has kept
the issue of racial equity before leaders, not
only in Pulaski County, but across the state.
As Judge Marshall said, it has served its purpose,
and it's time to move on."
The districts will adjust to the funding loss
as they also ease out of the programs created
by the 1989 plan, said Mr. Guess.
The new agreement allows for the city of
Jacksonville, which is a part of the county system,
to form its own district. The town's leaders
have long argued that independence will
allow the community to raise property taxes
Union, District Clash in Pittsburgh Over Teacher Evaluation
By Stephen Sawchuk
A dispute in Pittsburgh between
the school district and teachers'
union over the city's jointly designed
teacher-evaluation system shows the
stark distinction between ambitious
policy plans and implementation-
a lesson for an active philanthropic
community that has invested millions
of dollars in rethinking evaluation
"I thought we were partners in
reform, but the partnership [with
the union] has been rocky, let's just
say that," Superintendent Linda S.
Lane said. "In theory, it sounds fine,
but when it gets to the execution, it's
The disagreement concerns the
26,000-student district's decision to
set the bar so that an estimated 9
percent of teachers would receive the
lowest evaluation score. The Pittsburgh
Federation of Teachers insists
that that figure is too high.
The new system has largely been
funded out of a $40 million grant
from the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation, which na-
tionwide has put nearly $700 million
into grants to reshape the teaching
profession. (The Gates Foundation
also supports Education Week's coverage
of business and K-12 innovation.)
With no immediate resolution in
sight, concerns are brewing that the
dispute could scotch the remaining
$15.8 million in the grant, though
the Gates Foundation indicates that
the funding is not yet in jeopardy.
The union and district spent four
years devising a new evaluation system-the
centerpiece of a new approach
to teacher promotion and pay
in the city. It influenced the shape of
a 2010 teachers' contract, hailed then
as a landmark agreement and proof
of what a collaborative relationship
Those paper victories appear to be
falling victim to reality.
At issue is where to set the score
benchmarks to determine whether
teachers pass or fail their evaluations.
Ms. Lane said she has twice
lowered the bar on the assessment
6 | EDUCATION WEEK | January 22, 2014 | www.edweek.org
in response to teachers' concerns.
To be deemed proficient, teachers
now need to earn at least half
of the 300 total points available on
the system, which couples several
observations of teachers with data
from student test scores and surveys.
Those scoring fewer than 140
points would earn a "failing" rating,
a designation that can trigger dismissal
after two years.
Last year, in a dry run of sorts for
the evaluation system, the district
gave teachers an advanced look at
how they'd fare. Under the score
benchmarks set by the superintendent,
some 9 percent of teachers
would have been in the lowest category.
Eighty-five percent would have
passed muster, while another 5 percent
would have been in the secondlowest
The union protested, contending
that at that level, the number of
teachers deemed failing would be 10
times higher than the national average,
thought to be below 1 percent of
Representatives from the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation expressed
disappointment at the impasse, declaring
the evaluation framework
"one of best in the country for supporting,
developing, and evaluating
"It is now time for implementation,
and I am frankly puzzled
about why there would be objections
to this very approach that
gives even the lowest-performing
teachers intensive support and two
years to improve their practice,"
Vicki Phillips, the director of Gates'
college and career-ready strategy,
said in a statement. "We have not
made any decisions about the future
of the grant, but we are continuing
to watch this very carefully."
It is not the first quarrel between
the district and the union over
teacher-related policies. In 2011, Ms.
Lane scuttled a program for preparing
new teachers after she could not
get the union to agree that graduates
would be sheltered from senioritybased
layoff policies in the contract.
A year later, the two again sparred
over whether the data gathered on
teacher performance should be factored
Teachers have received "value
added" information on their performance,
but while that data now
count towards bonus pay and promotion,
it only this year began to be
factored into evaluations.
Some of the tension might be re-
flect the changing context in Pittsburgh.
Both the superintendent
and union chief who negotiated
the Gates-funded plan have since
The national appetite for such initiatives
has changed, too, with more
teachers criticizing evaluations
based on test scores and the role of
the Gates Foundation and others in
funding those systems.
The leadership of the American
Federation of Teachers, of which
the Pittsburgh union is an affiliate,
has itself been growing gradually
more critical of testing. Its president,
Randi Weingarten, cited the
Pittsburgh situation as one factor
behind her recent decision to oppose
the use of value-added infor
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 22, 2014
Education Week - January 22, 2014
50 Years Later, Verdicts Are Mixed On the Nation’s War on Poverty
A K-12 Titan in Congress to Move On
Fla. Pushes Longer Day With More Reading In Struggling Schools
Personal Danger of Data Breaches Prompts Action
News in Brief
Funds to End For Little Rock Desegregation
Union, District Clash in Pittsburgh Over Teacher Evaluation
Revised GED Ushers in New Era With More Testing Competition
In Five States, Districts Bail Out on Race to the Top Grants
K-12 Publishing, Ed-Tech Markets Experiencing Rising Revenues
Blogs of the Week
Still Segregated After 50 Years: A Visit To Cincinnati’s West End
Among States, Spending Gaps Have Widened
Spending Plan Aims to Relieve Some K-12 ‘Sequester’ Pain
Calif. Transgender Law Takes Effect In Schools, Amid Efforts to Repeal It
State of the States
Wash. Governor Pledges School Aid Boost
BRUCE FULLER: Is Small Beautiful? New York’s tiny high schools lift kids, harden segregation
RUFINA HERNÁNDEZ: A Common Cause for the Common Core
JEFFREY D. WILHELM & MICHAEL W. SMITH: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Pleasure Reading
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
XU ZHAO, HELEN HASTE, & ROBERT L. SELMAN: Questionable Lessons From China’s Recent History of Education Reform
Education Week - January 22, 2014