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Hillsborough schools to shelve Gates-funded experiment that cost $100M+ to implement

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In Seattle we are working on an estimate of the cost of all the standardized tests that are being taken by students in our school district as well as estimating the cost of implementing the Common Core Standards in the district which includes everything from texts, to lesson plans and coaches to “coach” the teachers and staff.

In 2011 Sue Peters and I came up with an estimate for the cost of the MAP test roll-out. From the post 15 Reasons Why the Seattle School District Should Shelve the MAP® Test—ASAP:

2.     Too costly. MAP® = an unfunded mandate. The initial subscription to the test cost $370,000. But the district has spent much more since then in implementation costs. A portion of the $7.2 million Gates Foundation grant to SPS in 2009 went toward MAP®. Another $4.3 million of the February 2010 school levy was also earmarked for MAP®. Some believe that the proposed $2 million network capacity upgrade currently before the school board is also associated with the test. By some measures, MAP® has cost our school district as much as $10 million.

[UPDATE: The yearly subscription/licensing cost for MAP® was estimated to be $500,000 per year, according to SPS staffer Brad Bernatek and then-Broad Resident Jessica DeBarros in a report on April 2009.]

So that is $10M for one standardized test for one year.

Now the district, through various mandates, are now giving the SBACC, the MAP, Amplify, WA Kids and DIEBELS, to Seattle students. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to the cost?

Well, the Hillsborough County school district in Florida figured out, after six years, how much it cost simply to implement the Gates’ directives and decided they couldn’t take it anymore or they would go broke and their district left in pieces.

Here’s the article:

From the Tampa Bay Times:

Sticker shock: How Hillsborough County’s Gates grant became a budget buster

While West spoke of the district’s financial difficulties, Eakins did not mention money in his email about the Gates program.

Instead, he cited new research that suggests it is better for teachers to help one another than to mark each other down on scorecards.

After six years of effort, high hopes and more than $180 million spent, the Hillsborough County school system is unraveling the teacher evaluation system it developed with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The news came in an email this week from superintendent Jeff Eakins to more than 260 “peer evaluators” and mentors who form the core of the system.

It also arrived as the once-cordial relationship between the district and its teachers union imploded Thursday. The two sides walked away from each other in anger as talks over a salary agreement for the current school year broke down.

Eakins announced in his email he has formed a committee to transition away from the once-touted Gates program, and said a number of employee groups would be on the panel.

Unlike the complex system of evaluations and teacher encouragement that cost more than $100 million to develop and would have cost an estimated $52 million a year to sustain, Hillsborough will likely move to a structure that has the strongest teachers helping others at their schools.

Eakins said he envisions a new program featuring less judgemental “non-evaluative feedback” from colleagues and more “job-embedded professional development,” which is training undertaken in the classroom during the teacher work day rather than in special sessions requiring time away from school. He said in his letter that these elements were supported by “the latest research.”

That’s a radical departure from the classroom observations carried out by full-time evaluators who rated the teachers according to a rubric, or scorecard. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, and his wife Melinda funded the project and others in U.S. cities through their philanthropic organization.

They hoped the system would create a hierarchy of teachers who could be paid based on their skills. Struggling teachers would be given assistance or, in the worst cases, fired or counseled out of the profession.

The foundation was expected to contribute $100 million through 2016, but instead paid $80 million. It is unclear to what extent the organization will continue to be involved in Hillsborough or whether it will forward any more money to the district.

The school district, meanwhile, has spent well beyond the $100 million it pledged, although some of the money was for related projects including a principal training program.

READ MORE: How Hillsborough County’s Gates grant became a budget buster

Among the selling points Hillsborough made back in 2009 when securing the Gates foundation’s support: a close working relationship between district officials and the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association. District leaders praised and promoted the union at public gatherings, and assured teachers that members were equal partners in designing the system.

The Gateses hoped the newly developed systems in Hillsborough and elsewhere would result in all students — especially those with the highest needs — getting quality teachers.

But in a report published Sunday, the Tampa Bay Times showed the project fell short of many of its goals and cost more to sustain than the district could afford.

Lower-income schools continue to hire the newest and least qualified teachers. Test scores are still measurably lower for poor and minority students. And Hillsborough’s graduation rate now lags behind other large counties in Florida.

As it rolled out the Gates-funded system, the district agreed to a new pay plan for teachers that added $65 million a year to payroll costs. That amount does not include more than $12 million in performance bonuses, which are now required by state law.

Despite those costs, which were revealed during the summer, the teachers union entered this year’s negotiations with hopes of getting raises for teachers and classroom aides, who earn as little as $9.12 an hour.

Negotiations were suspended as district officials grappled with news that they were spending down too much of their reserves.

When talks finally resumed, the union asked for support workers’ hourly wages to increase in three phases until they started at $10.77. For teachers, the union wanted everyone to advance a pay year and get an additional $1,000. For the highest-paid employees, the union asked for a 2 percent bonus.

Both sides described the proposal as a first step.

But Thursday’s bargaining session was over almost as soon as it began. Mark West, the district’s employee relations manager, said because of the district’s budget difficulties, he would have little to offer anyone, including the support employees.

“I’m glad you’re comfortable leaving your employees living in poverty,” union executive director Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins shot back.

“I’m not saying I’m comfortable,” West said.

Not long after, Baxter-Jenkins told the district’s team, “You might as well just go.”

While West spoke of the district’s financial difficulties, Eakins did not mention money in his email about the Gates program.

Instead, he cited new research that suggests it is better for teachers to help one another than to mark each other down on scorecards.

“By bridging current research with the knowledge gained from the last six years, we will build an even stronger support model for our students and teachers,” he wrote.

“Specifically, this transition will enable highly effective teachers to sharpen their teaching skills as they work directly with students every day. … Both teachers and students will benefit from the collegial relationships that develop over time.”

Eakins did not mention the Gates situation, or the Times report, in a four-hour televised School Board meeting Tuesday. But in his email, he said “newspaper articles, social media and the general buzz” around the Gates grant had moved him to address the peer evaluators.

He drew on his own years as an elementary school teacher to praise those who took part in the experiment.

“My peers challenged me to reflect on my practice and provided indispensable guidance starting on my very first day in the classroom and continuing throughout my teaching career,” he wrote.

**************************

It seems the only one failing here is Bill Gates.

Dora Taylor

4 comments on “Hillsborough schools to shelve Gates-funded experiment that cost $100M+ to implement

  1. seattleducation2010
    October 31, 2015

    Thanks for the info Dan.

    Dora

    • Tina Gorzalski
      October 31, 2015

      We WINNER: WI Needs Necessary Education Reform really appreciate your post Dora.

      In liberty,
      tina g

  2. Danaher M Dempsey Jr
    October 31, 2015

    The Math % large decline in 2015 for
    Hillsborough FL 8th grade math NAEP

    Below Basic – Basic – Proficient – Advanced

    NAEP 2013 ….. NAEP 2015
    27-39-27-8 ….. 36-37-22-6
    BB-B – P -A …. BB – B- P- A

    Changes from 2013 to 2015 (Ouch!)
    Really large increase in below basic %
    and drops in Proficient % and Advanced %

  3. Danaher M Dempsey Jr
    October 30, 2015

    There is some commentary here in the article and comments about Hillsborough, FL and the poor NAEP scores.

    http://jaypgreene.com/2015/10/30/the-mystery-of-the-math-swoon/

    Meanwhile Miami-Dade is doing NAEP great

    https://www.redefinedonline.org/2015/10/miami-dades-low-income-students-excel-on-national-assessments/

    Looks like another bad day for Mr. Gates efforts. Kentucky was the earliest adopter and implementer of CCSS and those 8th grade math results were not good.

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