Education funding may be linked to test results

Saturday, December 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

In Congress, House and Senate negotiators have approved an education bill that would link federal school funding to test scores. News on Six reporter Glenda Silvey talked with Tulsa educators about the plan.

President Bush says his top domestic priority is education. Not everyone is giving high marks to the proposed education plan. The National Education Association, plus National School Board and Administrators Associations say its goals are commendable, but the bill doesn’t provide adequate funding to fulfill them. It calls for $26.5-billion in funding for 2002, an $8-billion increase over this year. It requires annual state reading and math tests in grades three through eight beginning in 2004.

For the first time, scores could affect schools' federal aid. The bill also requires schools to close gaps in scores between wealthy and poor, and minority and white students. The Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association agrees that schools should beheld accountable for student performance, but says there are many factors influencing that. Dr. Karen Dawson, TCTA President, "We need more involvement for children’s learning. Testing is one part of it. Yes, we need to be accountable, but you wouldn’t take a company and base one thing, say, testing, on the whole accountability of the business. In general, I'm not unhappy."

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent David Sawyer is pleased to see movement on education funding issues, and approves its support of initiatives the district is already emphasizing reading and improving student performance. He says the bill's provision allowing schools two years to show improvement is reasonable. Dr David Sawyer, "If it's couched appropriately, and if progress is indeed the determining factor, it doesn't provide me with any particular difficulty. Because I think we are able to and should be able to demonstrate, on an annual basis, improvement."

The bill is expected to be on President Bush's desk soon. The bill beefs up requirements for teacher qualification and allows churches or religious groups to provide tutoring and after-school programs. It also provides money to build new charter schools and help existing ones.