TPS Superintendent Seeks $55 Million From Gates Foundation

Sunday, August 2nd 2009, 3:04 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard says he's taken a cold, hard look at his district. And he doesn't like what he sees.

And that's why Tulsa Public Schools' superintendent is asking for a whopping $55 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

So Ballard and a team of district leaders went to work. And they're enlisting the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to perform a top-to-bottom overhaul in how they're recruiting, hiring, evaluating, and paying its teachers.  

Only 70% of its students graduate in four years. Only 7% of those are ready for college, compared to 9% state-wide, and 13% across the nation. The statistics are much worse for minority students with only 1-2% of TPS black and Hispanic graduates ready for college-level work.

"It's so abysmally low that it tells me we have a serious problem in kids who are college ready," said Dr. Keith Ballard, TPS Superintendent.

"It struck me that we have a 13-point racial achievement gap that really struck me."

And it's not just the test scores. A survey revealed one-third of TPS teachers wouldn't want their own children taught by many of their colleagues.

In the Gates proposal, TPS pledges to boost starting salaries to $36,000 and increase them by $1,000 dollars for the next four years.

Read the proposal online.

But teachers will also face more appraisals and evaluations. They'll be judged and rewarded based on student performance and be eligible to earn bonuses of up to $20,000.

But with more money comes higher expectations. Don't meet them, and you're gone.

"Tenured teachers enjoy protectionism that no one else enjoys, and that's not in the best of interest of kids," Ballard said. "Let's make this whole thing about what's in the best interests of kids."

Ballard is very hopeful that TPS will make the cut and receive a Gates grant. But with or without it, he says this plan is moving forward.