Baltimore: Cut suspensions, get a bonus

The “Baltimore school system is paying bonuses to teachers and administrators at struggling schools that reduce suspensions for non-violent offenses, drawing criticism from union leaders who say the program could provide a financial incentive to ignore problems and jeopardize school safety,” reports the Baltimore Sun. Teachers also can earn more if their schools reduce truancy and absenteeism.

Marietta English, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, said she fears that the bonuses could exacerbate the problem of educators feeling pressure to keep suspension numbers down, sometimes at the expense of maintaining order in the classroom.

“I’m worried about the safety of our teachers,” English said. “When you offer a bonus for something like that, you are putting a price on what’s going to happen around safety in a school.”

So far, 72 teachers and assistant principals have been given bonuses of $5,000 to $9,500; two principals received  $3,000 each. Teachers must have satisfactory evaluations and attendance rates to qualify for a bonus.

Baltimore is using $695,000 in federal Race to the Top funds to pay for the program.

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  1. Oh, this has got to work out great.

    The folks who have a systemic incentive to ignore misbehavior, up to and including criminal behavior, now have a financial incentive to ignore that sort of behavior as well.

    Us “reformy” types don’t have to lift a finger to convince those undecided about public education reform which side to pick. On a daily basis school districts serve up stories and make decisions that us “reformy” types couldn’t dream up and wouldn’t bother hoping for.

  2. The Law of Unintended Consequences has not, to my knowledge, been repealed.

  3. Mike in Texas says:

    Sounds like something a “reformer” would dream up

    • Har! But it *is* something dreamed up by the paladins who run a school district.

      But in defense of the administrators and school board members who dreamed up this idea, they have no particular reason to concern themselves with educating kids. As self-evidently idiotic as this policy is if have no incentive to concern yourself with the education of the kids put in your charge something of this nature’s to be expected.

      By the way Mike, since Michigan loosened the limits on the number of charter schools the percentage of public school kids going to charters in the Detroit Public Schools district has gone from 30% to 42%. Next year the number of charters allowed goes up precipitously and in two years the limit comes off completely. I think I ought to send another note to Governor Snyder asking him when he plans to propose some legislation to handle the dissolution of a school district when it becomes non-viable?

  4. Ummmm, close the district down? 🙂

    • Yes, but under what circumstances? What happens to the district’s taxing authority? It’s obligations? It’s real estate and other assets?

      There’s a lot to think about when a district’s going to be dissolved and the very first thing to do is to come to terms with the fact that it can actually happen. That’s the real watershed.

      After that it’s checklists, decisions and consulting the applicable law.

      • Stacy in NJ says:

        Let us know how it works out in Detroit, allen. The other blue cities and states will need a model. Chicago will be calling in a few years.

        • Sure but keep in mind that Michigan’s not the only place where the revolution could get started. Louisiana, not often thought of as a hotbed of educational policy development, has an urban school district with 70% of the public education kids going to charters. That’s New Orleans.

          There are a number of other possibilities just based on the percentage of kids in charters (or receiving vouchers) but the problem is really conceptual in that most people simply don’t understand that public education doesn’t require a school district.

          School districts are simply a fact of life so the idea of doing away with districts rather doing everything to prop them up is a scary thought. One life’s verities suddenly isn’t so very. Once it’s not so scary, once it’s clear there’s a direction in which to head, it’ll be Katy bar the door. There’ll be a stampede.

  5. Obi-Wandreas says:

    My district is currently on a push to reduce suspensions – and is touting a significant drop in the suspension rate. Not a reduction in the rate of suspendible actions or an improvement in student behavior, mind you. This is mostly due to forcing principals to replace suspensions with letters that say “In lieu of suspension, the child must return with a parent,” which amounts merely to a talking-to. The children, knowing that there are no real consequences to their behavior, are acting like there are no real consequences to their behavior. The well-behaved students are the ones who suffer from having their education constantly interrupted.

    This is similar to the push the district has had for years on grades and retention rates. It is much easier to track grades than learning, and nobody downtown has the intestinal fortitude to tell a parent that their child is putting forth absolutely no effort whatsoever – so the push is to push kids on. It’s no wonder that, of my current crop of 7th graders, 15% came to us at grade level in math, and 10% in English.

  6. baltimore teacher says:

    I am a teacher in Baltimore and I can tell you that Obi-Wandreas’ comment rings true. In the school district the children are getting away with all types of offenses. From threatening other students and teachers to getting in fights the school system has reduced suspensions and not suspendable offenses. Where is the reason and the concern for safety in these schools? Furthermore how do they intend to continue to attract teachers to a school district where children can punch other children and not get suspended. In Maryland Baltimore city schools has staffing issues unlike the surrounding counties. In my opinion these children are being taught that “anything goes” and it is time for teachers to stand up for these children and against the power structure.