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Posted at 12:54 PM ET, 04/20/2011

Virginia’s largest school district says no to performance pay

It is seriously refreshing to hear that just as soon as Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell announced a new teacher performance pay pilot program that would tie their pay to student standardized test scores, the state’s largest school system said thanks but no thanks.

Jack Dale, superintendent of Fairfax County public schools, told my colleague Kevin Sieff that the district’s previous experiment with performance pay, in the early 1980s, was a failure and that he would pass on the program and any attached funding that comes with it — even in these financially troubled times.

McDonnell, jumping on a standardized test-based performance pay bandwagon spreading across the country with the backing of the Obama administration, announced a pilot program Tuesday that would distribute a total of $3 million to districts in the state that have one or more of the 169 schools that he said were difficult to staff. Forty are in Northern Virginia, nine of them in Fairfax. (The list is below.)

Assessment experts say it is a lousy idea — meaning the results are unreliable and invalid — to judge teachers on how well their students do on standardized tests, but that obviously isn’t stopping McDonnell, who is making use of the tests mandatory for program participants.

Yet two Virginia school districts questioned why some of their schools were even on the list, saying they weren’t hard to staff.

One of them is Loudoun County public schools, where spokesman Wayde Byard questioned the placement of five Loudoun schools.

Linda Erdos of Arlington County public schools, which had the most schools, 17, on the list, also said she was perplexed about how some of the schools got on the list and why others were not included. Arlington Traditional Elementary, for example, is on the list but has been high-achieving for years and hasn’t struggled to hire teachers.

Arlington has its own teacher pay schedule that rewards teacher based on a portfolio of actions — including becoming National Board Certified — that demonstrates professional standards without the use of test scores, Erdos said.

So let’s review:

* The Virginia governor issues a list of 169 schools that he says are hard to staff.

* At least two school systems say there are schools on the list that are not, in fact, hard to staff.

* The governor, at a time of great financial difficulty, finds $3 million for a pilot program that the largest school system says was tried and failed previously, and that people who really understand assessment says is bogus.

At least there are some people, and school systems, in Virginia who know better.

The 169 schools in Virginia on McDonnell’s list:

• Accomack County — Kegotank Elementary and Pungoteague Elementary

• Albemarle County — Albemarle County Community Public Charter

• Alexandria — Cora Kelly Magnet Elementary, Francis Hammond 2 Middle, Francis Hammond 3 Middle, George Mason Elementary, James K. Polk Elementary, Mount Vernon Elementary, T.C. Williams High and William Ramsay Elementary

• Arlington County — Abingdon Elementary, Arlington Traditional Elementary, Ashlawn Elementary, Barrett Elementary, Campbell Elementary, Carlin Springs Elementary, Claremont Elementary, Drew Model Elementary, Francis Scott Key Elementary, Gunston Middle, Henry Elementary, Hoffman-Boston Elementary, Long Branch Elementary, Oakridge Elementary, Randolph Elementary, Swanson Middle and Washington-Lee High

• Brunswick County — James S. Russell Middle

• Buchanan County — Hurley High and Twin Valley High

• Caroline County — Caroline High and Madison Elementary

• Charles City County — Charles City County Middle

• Chesterfield County — A.M. Davis Elementary

• Colonial Beach — Colonial Beach High

• Covington — Covington High

• Cumberland County — Cumberland High and Cumberland Middle

• Dinwiddie County — Dinwiddie Middle

• Essex County — Essex Intermediate

• Fairfax County — Bailey’s Elementary, Bryant Alternative High, Franconia Elementary, Hayfield Elementary, Key Center, Kilmer Center, Little Run Elementary, North Springfield Elementary and Woodson Adult High

• Fauquier County — Greenville Elementary and Kettle Run High

• Franklin — Franklin High

• Franklin County — Rocky Mount Elementary and Windy Gap Elementary

• Frederick County — Robert E. Aylor Middle

• Goochland County — Goochland Middle

• Grayson County — Grayson County High

• Greensville County — Edward W. Wyatt Middle

• Hampton — C. Alton Lindsay Middle, Captain John Smith Elementary, Hampton High, Jane H. Bryan Elementary and Merrimack Elementary

• Henrico County — Academy at Virginia Randolph, Baker Elementary, Fairfield Middle, Highland Springs Elementary, Highland Springs High, L. Douglas Wilder Middle, John Rolfe Middle, Skipwith Elementary and Varina High

• Henry County — Axton Elementary

• Hopewell — Carter G. Woodson Middle and Hopewell High

• King and Queen County — Central High

• Lee County — Dryden Elementary, Flatwoods Elementary and Thomas Walker High

• Loudoun County — Creighton’s Corner Elementary, Freedom High, Rolling Ridge Elementary, Stone Hill Middle and Sugarland Elementary

• Louisa County — Trevilians Elementary

• Lunenburg County — Central High and Lunenburg Middle

• Manassas — Osbourn High and Weems Elementary

• Manassas Park — Cougar Elementary and Manassas Park Elementary

• Mecklenburg County — Bluestone High

• Montgomery County — Auburn High

• New Kent County — New Kent Middle

• Newport News — Denbigh High

• Norfolk — Azalea Middle, Lafayette-Winona Middle, Lake Taylor Middle, Lindenwood Elementary, Madison Alternative Center, Norview Middle and Ruffner Middle

• Northampton County — Kiptopeke Elementary and Northampton High

• Orange County — Orange County High

• Page County — Luray Middle

• Patrick County — Blue Ridge Elementary and Hardin Reynolds Elementary

• Petersburg — Peabody Middle and Vernon Johns Junior High

• Portsmouth — Churchland Academy Elementary, Cradock Middle, Victory Elementary and Woodrow Wilson High

• Prince Edward County — Prince Edward County High

• Prince William County — Antietam Elementary, Coles Elementary, Enterprise Elementary, Fannie W. Fitzgerald Elementary, Fred M. Lynn Middle, Kerrydale Elementary, Loch Lomond Elementary, Mills E. Godwin Middle, Potomac View Elementary, Rosa Parks Elementary, Victory Elementary and Woodbridge Middle

• Pulaski County — Fairlawn Cooperative Transition Center and Pulaski County Senior High

• Richmond — Albert Hill Middle, Armstrong High, Bellevue Elementary, Binford Middle, Chimborazo Elementary, E.S.H. Greene Elementary, Elkhardt Middle, Fairfield Court Elementary, Fred D. Thompson Middle, G.H. Reid Elementary, George Mason Elementary, George W. Carver Elementary, George Wythe High, Henderson Middle, Huguenot High, John Marshall High, Lucille M. Brown Middle, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle, Miles Jones Elementary, Richmond Alternative, Summer Hill/Ruffin Road Elementary, Thomas C. Boushall Middle and Thomas Jefferson High

• Roanoke — Patrick Henry High and Westside Elementary

• Rockbridge County — Maury River Middle

• Russell County — Castlewood High and Lebanon Middle

• Stafford County — Colonial Forge High and Kate Waller Barrett Elementary

• Sussex County — Sussex Central Middle

• Warren County — Skyline High and Warren County High

• Westmoreland County — Washington & Lee High and Washington District Elementary

• Wythe County — Rural Retreat Middle, Scott Memorial Middle and Wythe County Technical Center

• York County — York River Academy

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By  |  12:54 PM ET, 04/20/2011

 
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