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Schools get cash for good grades

The city Department of Education is using cash to encourage schools to perform at the top of their class – and that has renewed fears of educators teaching for the test. The DOE is splitting $3.4 million among schools that received top marks on their school report cards, as well as offering $15 million to “high-need” schools as an incentive to boost scores on standardized exams. As a result, parents are worried that additional pressure will be placed on students to ace standardized tests so the money will keep on flowing. “Talk about bribes,” said Carmen Colon, co-founder and former president of the Association of New York City Education Councils and former president of District 13’s Community Education Council. “It doesn’t change the fact that a teacher has to teach to some stupid bubble test and isn’t really allowed to teach those subjects in a manner that engages children. Being a good test-taker is not going to guarantee anybody a job.” David Bloomfield, president of the Citywide Council on High Schools, supports offering incentives to encourage schools to improve student achievement but said test scores should not be the sole measure of success. “I have no objection to the concept,” he said. However, “I think that it’s probably not the best idea to tie these simply to test scores, which can lead to unattended consequences like test prep and cheating. But as a school-wide bonus for improvement, I think it’s probably a good thing.” Schools that earned an A on their progress report and a top rank of “well developed” on their quality review for the last school year will receive between $4,391 and $122,837. Funding will be allocated based on student enrollment. In Brooklyn, New Utrecht High School at 1601 80th Street will receive $100,180, Brooklyn International High School at 49 Flatbush Avenue Ext. will get $11,999, and P.S. 255 at 1866 East 17th Street is slated for $23,864. As part of the privately-funded initiative to boost student achievement, schools will receive thousands if they meet higher test score targets. Local schools participating in the initiative include I.S. 68 Isaac Bildersee at 956 East 82nd Street, I.S. 246 Walt Whitman at 72 Veronica Place, M.S. 571 at 80 Underhill Avenue, and P.S. 15 Patrick F. Daly at 71 Sullivan Street. Colon believes the funding would be better used to make school an exciting place for students. “Kids hate school because school is boring,” she said. “If you want to do something with that money, you need to have really rich after-school programs available for all the students. Maybe you can engage them in those activities after school and make it a reward. You can tell parents that if your kid gets really good grades, they get free after-school. That’s an incentive.”

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