Be the 'best' in Michigan for $25,000

Nine Michigan school districts paid $25,000 to get on a “best schools’ list created by a public relations firm. From

The banner ad across the Lincoln school district’s website proudly proclaims it has been recognized as one of the best school districts in Michigan.

The criteria for Lincoln and eight other districts being selected?

A $25,000 check.

That’s the only criteria.

The firm features the nine districts on a web site and bought airtime on a Detroit-area television station to broadcast a show featuring the districts.

Each new student brings $7,300 in funding, so district officials say the cost probably was covered by increased enrollment.

Update: A Florida school district is spending $350,000 in federal stimulus funds to buy iPods for parents of disabled students who fill out an online survey that takes about 10 minutes. “The (Polk County) district wants to know how well it’s connecting with the parents and how to get parents involved in their children’s education,” reports Bay News 9.

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  1. Presumably you could get the organisers under truth in advertising laws.

  2. tim-10-ber says:

    This is truly pitiful. Parents think they are enrolling their kids in an excellent school. They trust educators to be excellent but what an absolute joke…teachers in those schools should be ashamed to work in such an environment if in fact their schools are not the best…yet again the children lose…

  3. Seems pretty sensible to me.

    After all, it’s got to be a lot less costly and disruptive to just write a check then to actually improve educational performance.

  4. Don Bemont says:

    Of course it is appalling, but I think that people miss the significance of the story.

    Many posters on this site believe rather uncritically in the power of business-style competition to fix the problems of education. However, image campaigns are often more effective in the world of business than improvement of the product. Although buying an award might be extreme, these sorts of decisions are made all the time in schools under pressure to produce better results immediately.

    Typical situation: Look at the number of students who rarely attend a high school. If they end up with failing test scores and do not graduate, the school’s results will be deemed unacceptable, even if every single student in attendance, including the many who refuse to do the work and/or arrive daily under the influence of some substance somehow does pass the exams and graduate on time.

    One school superintendent makes plans to chip away at the problem, while upholding standards of academics and integrity in the meantime. Second superintendent makes clear to building principals that the results are to look good a few months down the road — details of how this is accomplished to remain a dark secret. Any predictions which superintendent will look like the hero in the newspapers? Any predictions which school district will be held up as a model of success?

    This award buying is over the top, but, at least they apparently did not push their teachers to cheat the results, thus undermining future student motivation.

  5. Oh, please. Save it. This is how all the hospitals do it — and look how much money they make. You didn’t really think every hospital in your area was rated Top 10 in Whatever, did you? Why wouldn’t the schools?

  6. Don Bemont – politicians have been focussing on image rather than reality all by themselves, they don’t need to learn the idea from business. Keep an eye out for how often politicians talk about increases in government spending on things like health or education, rather than increases in outcomes. As long as voters are mostly ignorant (and let’s face it, no one who also has a job and a life can keep up with everything the government does), politicians will aim for image over reality.

  7. That’s the only criteria.

    Should that not be “the only criterion?”

    The publication “Who’s Who Among American High School Students” is not much (if any) more selective.

  8. I see an opportunity to make some money here. For only $10,000 *I* will designate your school as the Best In ______ .

  9. Don Bemont says:

    Tracy W, I agree completely, of course. Politicians are the worst of all. Truly, the most accurate statement about the schools I know is that power has been transferred from educators to politicians.

    However, those that hope that the problem will be solved by a competitive business atmosphere are likely to be unpleasantly surprised.


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