We’re Still Fixing a Broken Car

August 16th, 2012

Category: Policy and Practice

The University of Delaware’s annual “Delaware Teacher and Administrator Supply and Demand Survey Analysis” report reminds me of fixing my first car in high school – a lot of repairs around the edges that kept it running while, in the end, a whole new car was required.

We all remember our first car – for me, it was a 1982 Honda Accord. That bad boy had over 235,000 miles on it when my Dad gave it to me and, miraculously, lasted for another 15,000 miles before the axle fell off the wheel while going over a speed bump (great story). While I owned it, it seemed like it was always in the shop getting a new belt or engine part – all attempts to keep it running before the inevitable new car was required. As I read the recently released report, it’s clear that problems such as late hiring are simply symptoms of something much bigger, and that’s the fact that Delaware needs a new ride.

As the report highlights, there has been a decrease in the percent of late hires, with slightly less than 50 percent hired in August or later (an improvement from over 60 percent from the previous year). While that should be applauded, as the report highlights, we still hire over 60 percent of our teachers in July or later and only 13 percent in May or earlier. On top of that, over 60 percent of district personnel report the uncertainty of September 30th enrollment is a major or moderate reason for late hires.

These two points combined demonstrate what a coalition of stakeholders, through Vision 2015, have advocated previously – we must stop tinkering with our 70-year old car in order to get modest improvements here and there and simply redesign the ship to be more simple and flexible.

What does this mean? It means switching from our unit count formula that provides funds based on a group of students towards a weighted formula, based on students’ needs, where the dollars follow the individual student. This would enable district hiring managers and principals less risk averse if they know a smaller percent of dollars could not be provided. However, and more importantly, it would enable us to provide students who need more support (low-income, English Learners, special education, etc.) with more funds in order to enable them to reach rigorous expectations.

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Brett Turner




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