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Ka-ching! fills every chair at Manual for CSAP tests

Ohanian Comment: School as marketplace. Students as consumers lured in by the promise of payoffs. The principal says "it works." This is the pedagogy that a degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education gets you? In a lengthy article, 5280 Denver's Magazine calls him one of Colorado's most gifted educators. There is no question but he has a difficult job in a difficult school. But it's disappointing that he chooses the corporate solution. It is also disappointing that the media assumes no responsibility for asking any questions about an "whatever works" philosophy.

Truth in disclosure: I support the CBE opt out campaign.

Of Interest: Note the little announcement at the bottom of this newspaper article: To read more about the Manual plan, go to http://www.ednewscolorado.org. Since I believe you are what you link to, I check out their links. Here they are:

Link: Donnell-Kay Foundation
The Donnell-Kay Foundation improves public education and drives systematic school reform in Colorado through solid research, creative dialogue and critical thinking. They provide a thorough source of information and analysis of issues affecting education. . .

Link: The Piton Foundation
Piton is a private operating foundation in Denver, Colorado. The foundation develops and implements programs to improve public education, expand economic opportunities for families, and strengthen low-income neighborhoods in Denver. . .

Link: Public Education & Business Coalition

The Public Education & Business Coalition is a partnership of leaders from education, business, and the community dedicated to cultivating excellence in public schools so all students succeed in learning and in life. . .

Link: Colorado Children's Campaign
The Colorado Children's Campaign is the leading voice for children in Colorado. Today, there are more than 1.1 million children in Colorado-- and that number and their needs are growing. The Children's Campaign's mission is to create hope and. . .

Link: Colorado League of Charter Schools
The Colorado League of Charter Schools serves and supports existing Colorado charter schools and groups or individuals wishing to start a charter school in Colorado. The League has a commitment to both individual charter schools, as well as the. . .

Link: Bighorn Center for Public Policy
The Bighorn Center was created in 1999 to give Colorado's political middle a credible and legitimate voice in the state's increasingly polarized landscape and more importantly, to get things done. The concept was to bring together leaders from both . . . .

Fair and balanced.

If you go to the link about the story of getting all the kids at Manual High to take the test, you get a gung-ho rah rah piece.

Fair and balanced.

Few care that the marketplace crushes pedagogy.

by Nancy Mitchell

A plan to pay Manual High School students to take state tests this week has paid off - with 100 percent attendance.

Manual Principal Rob Stein is hardly the first metro-area educator to use enticements to get students to take part in the Colorado Student Assessment Program.

Other schools - particularly high schools - have used movie passes, fast-food certificates and chances to win raffles with prizes such as televisions and iPods.

Stein and his staff went the more direct route of cold, hard cash. For each test taken, $5. For good behavior, such as arriving on time, add another $1. Private donors will pay the bill.

With nine tests over the past three days, Tuesday through Thursday, that equals about $50 per student.

"I don't believe in it, but it works," Stein said Thursday.

The Manual alum with a doctorate from Harvard took over the struggling school in north-central Denver last fall, after eight years spent running the prestigious and private Graland Country Day School.

"The reason why I think I was willing to make the exception is there's no benefit to the kids in the CSAP," Stein said. "They don't learn from it, it's not intrinsically motivating, they don't get results in a timely way. There's just no benefit to them."

The CSAP exams are given annually to students in grades three through 10 in reading, writing, math and science.

Test results are used to rate schools, but they don't count for individual student grades or graduation.

"It's simply a chore they have to do that's unpleasant," Stein said. "I don't think paying them to do an unpleasant chore is the same thing as paying them to learn."

Students also will be rewarded if they perform better than expected, based on past test performance, when CSAP results are returned this August.

"We wanted kids not just to be present but to try," the principal said.

Of Manual's 160 students - all ninth-graders - only a student who ran away from home a month ago did not take any tests. Another student must make up two of the nine tests given.

Otherwise, attendance was perfect.

In spring 2006, the last time Manual students took the exams, absence rates ranged from zero to 15 percent on tests. DPS leaders shuttered the poorly performing school in 2006-07 to plan its current reform.

"Having 100 percent attendance is tremendous," said DPS Superintendent Michael Bennet, who heard about the plan on Thursday morning.

"I do think we have to look at all kinds of incentives and disincentives to get the behavior we all want," he said. "Whether it's appropriate for all schools, I don't know the answer to that."

Stein said the school also had other strategies, including collecting student cell phone numbers and calling those who were running late.

Teachers also emphasized that "we really want to rally as a community."

But the money definitely helped. Altogether, he said private donors can expect to pay out about $8,000. Students will be paid next week.

"It's not part of my educational philosophy," said Stein, who believes learning should be intrinsically motivated.

But, he added, "I'm obligated to go with the data on this one. One thing we've learned is, it works."

mitchelln@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-5245.

To read more about the Manual plan, go to ednewscolorado.org.

— Nancy Mitchell
Rocky Mountain News





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