Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 7/In the News

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Organizational Changes Make Headlines[edit]

By: Kim Hedley

Learning Objectives[edit]

1. Students will be able to name the state that has adopted the 'Pay for Performance' program and note at which school level it is being tested.

2. Students will be able to explain the three criteria used to determine teacher's success and amount of additional pay in the 'Pay for Performance' programs.

3. Students will be able to list three examples of failure in the Detroit Public School System.

4. Students will be able to identify U.S. Secretary of Education and his position on mayoral control of the Detroit Public School System.


School organization consists of many different levels of governance, various board members, superintendents, principals, parents and students, to name a few (Barr & Dreeben, 2007). These different groups work together in an effort to maintain a successful educational atmophere and create successful invdividuals. When one of the links is missing, or not contributing properly, the system may begin to fail. Unfortunately, several school districts throughout the United States are finding that the organization is failing and therefore, so are many of the students. As a result of low test scores, decreasing graduation rates and poor use of financial resources, the government has intervened to reform many of these districts. This intervention consists of several tactics that aim to increase teacher effectiveness and ultimately increase test scores. One example of this effort to increase the quality of education is known as 'Pay for Performance' (Lavy, 2007). Steps have also been taken to re-organize individuals within specific school districts, enabling mayoral control, in order to help ensure proper supervision and begin increasing student success rates (Dawsey, 2009). Throughout the article I will will provide examples of both of these types of reform that are currently taking place. I will also explain the significance of the events and the debates that have followed many of the recent decisions.

Teacher Evaluations: Pay for Performance[edit]

In most schools around the country, a teacher's salary is based almost completely on their educational background as well as experience (Schencker, 2009). For many teachers, pay is not dependent on their student's test scores or graduation rates; however, for five elementary schools in Utah, this is beginning to change. Recently, lawmakers in Utah passed a bill that will allow the selected schools to receive a total of $300,000 per year for two years (Schencker, 2009). The money is to be divided between the five chosen schools. During the first year of the program, each school will use a portion of the funds to create a plan that will measure teacher and student successes (Schencker, 2009). Following the completion of the first year, using the methods decided upon by the school, teachers will be awarded additional money for the success of their students. An article in the Salt Lake Tribune states, “The amount of pay will depend on each school’s plan. According to the law, the programs must base 40 percent of the pay on student progress, which will likely be measured by test results; 40 percent on instructional quality; and 20 percent on parent, student or community satisfaction” (Schencker, 2009). In my opinion, this new "Pay for Performance" plan definitely has the potential to not only increase the quality of education for students but also raise the standard and motivation for teachers. In my experience with teachers, I have found that many are already putting forth their best effort despite the lack of monetary incentive; however, for those who need a reason to give a little more, this could be the answer. This is a controversial idea with arguments for and against the program. Victor Lavy (2007), professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, offers many positive aspects for the program while also finding several potential flaws.

Those who agree with the pay incentive state that the financial reward has the potential to increase teaching quality and student success. Along with this, it is also noted that more highly qualified teachers would most likely remain in the system and be able to follow clearly defined goals and expectations (Lavy, 2007).

In addition to all of the potential positive feedback this pay increase could possibly bring, there are also many flaws that are difficult to overlook. If teachers are offered an increase in pay as a result of students test scores, the possibility for negative behavior on the part of the educators must be considered (Lavy, 2007). Teachers may begin to focus solely on their students' test performance and lose track of the overall educational quality. The challenge of the program is to devise a way to measure student and teacher performance and incorporating all aspects of education (Lavy, 2007). Several principals, quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune article, offer opinions about the "Pay for Performance" idea. One example, the principal at Wasatch Peak Academy, Sandra Shepard, states, "I think it's a great time to look at what we're doing and make it better...I believe teachers all teaching in classrooms next to each other, getting the same pay at the same rate, may not be improving education" (Schencker, 2009).

The Salt Lake Tribune article offers the opinion of another vice principal as well. Dawnanna Topham is quoted as saying, "I think what would really turn teachers off or make them not accept performance pay is if it's based solely on test scores. As long as [teachers] know it's only a portion of it, I think they will be OK" (Schencker, 2009).

Administrative Changes: Possibility of Mayoral Control in Detroit Public School System[edit]

“National disgrace.” These are words used by U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, to explain the Detroit Public School System (Mrozowski & Esparza, 2009). This Michigan school district is in dire need of radical changes, according to Duncan; emergency financial manager Robert Bobb and Mayor Dave Bing are also in agreement that changes must occur (Mrozowski& Esparza, 2009). Due to problems like decreased enrollment, low graduation rate and financial fraud, the city’s school system has been under intense scrutiny by federal, state and local education officials (Dawsey, 2009). Duncan has $5 billion available in stimulus money to offer to those school districts making drastic changes. Included in the list of changes, he admits he would like to see mayoral control of the Detroit school system. (Dawsey, 2009) On Wednesday, May 13, 2009, Bobb requested that the federal government place the school district under special circumstances and grant additional emergency financial support to help facilitate rapid changes (Mrozowski & Esparza, 2009). These emergency funds are generally reserved for areas that have been struck by natural disasters. Because this is not the case in Detroit, it could mean that the request will not be honored (Mrozowski & Esparza, 2009).

A mayoral takeover of the Detroit Public Schools is one suggestion to help aid in the struggling situation. Duncan has supported this idea, although many others are very hesitant to believe that this is the answer to the problems (Dawsey, 2009). The choice could be left up to the people of the city of Detroit to decide if the bill makes its way to the ballot for a November vote (Dawsey, 2009). Those who support this idea look to Robert Bobb's recent changes for hope. He has already begun making transformations that include closing 29 schools, firing principals at low-performing schools as well as diminishing $305 million from the district deficit (Dawsey, 2009). On the other hand, those who oppose this suggested change see the previous mayoral takeover that was supported by Gov. John Engler, in 1999, as a failure (Mrozowski & Esparza, 2009). Parents of students in struggling districts, like Detroit, have mixed opinions about the subject (Sarrio, 2009). Some agree that significant action needs to be taken in order to reform the educational system, while others fight against mayoral control. These parents who disagree in the change argue that they are given less power and authority in their child's education (Sarrio, 2009). The possibility of a mayoral takeover of the school system continues to be a highly debated issue with lawmakers, politicians and interest groups all weighing in (Dawsey, 2009). One thought, however, remains agreed upon, serious measures must be taken to revamp the Detroit Public School System to bring it to a functioning level without corruption and failure (Dawsey, 2009). I believe that it is imperative to have functioning school systems to support today's youth. This includes organizing the system in a way to make decisions that will benefit the students and increase the quality of education. If the mayoral takeover process could be smooth and successful, then I agree that it should occur. Significant changes need to be made, especially in troubled districts like Detroit, in order for the students to succeed.


Over the past several months, many changes have been made in the organization and structure of the educational system. The goal in each of these decisions has been to increase the educational quality, teacher performance and student success. Using methods like the "Pay for Performance" program that offers monetary incentive for successful teachers is one way of making changes. In addition to this, re-organizing the school district authorities to run the schools efficiently is another current way to help fix some problems. With these tactics, and many others, the organization of the education system is ever changing and growing. My hope is that changes continue to be made throughout the years to build effective schools and teachers and successful students.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

1. Which state received $300,000 each year for two years to enact a "Pay for Performance" program that is being tested in five elementary schools?

a. Arkansas

b. Florida

c. Montana

d. Utah

2. Which of the following best describes the criteria a teacher must meet in order to be rewarded with additional pay in the 'Pay for Performance' program?

a. After school activities, computer skills, yearbook editor

b. Age, community service, scores on standardized tests

c. Student progress, parent satisfaction, instructional quality

d. Instructional quality, computer skills, teaching experience

3. Ms. Smith is a parent of a child in one of the many Detroit public schools. She does not agree with the mayor taking over the school district. Which of the following is a common belief among those parents against the mayoral takeover?

a. The school district does not have problems

b. There are no known benefits to the mayoral takeover

c. The mayor is not of the same political party

d. It limits the authority and power of parents in education

4. If Mr. Nixon's child was a student in the Detroit Public School System, which of the following describes what his child likely to be experiencing in school?

a. Above average standardized test scores

b. Decreasing graduation and enrollment rates

c. Over-qualified teachers and principals

d. Decreasing student crime and poverty


D, C, D, B


Barr, R., & Dreeben, R. (2007). How Schools Work. In Ballantine, J.H., & Spade, J.Z., Schools and Society: A sociological approach to Education (pp. 73–76).

Dawsey, C.P. (2009, June 5). Control of Detroit schools could be on ballot. Detroit Free Press. Retrieved from

Lavy, V. (2007). Using performance based pay to improve the quality of teachers. The Future of Children, 17(1), 87-109.

Mrozowski, J., & Esparza, S. (2009, June 6). DPS asks for federal disaster funding. The Detroit News. Retrieved from

Sarrio, J. (2009, June 7). Results are mixed in cities where mayors have run schools. The Tennessean. Retrieved from

Schencker, L. (2009, June 2). 5 schools chosen for teacher pay pilot program. The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved from

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