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Our Opinion: Good scores, big money

March 20, 2001

After much hard work by educators and students throughout the county to improve standardized test scores, it appears the fruits of those labors will soon be realized.

It was announced recently that 29 Imperial County schools, ranging from elementary through high schools, will be awarded $1.16 million in state funds for improved test scores and rankings on the 2000 Academic Performance Index, the state's 1-year-old system of ranking schools' SAT 9 test scores. The scores of many Valley schools showed marked, if not drastic, gains over API scores seen in 1999.

As a result, the state in late April or early May will likely provide each of the schools with monetary awards, known as Governor's Performance Awards, to be used as each school site deems fit.

We think this is wonderful news. Tight budgets often lock campuses into buying the bare essentials such as textbooks and little else. With the funds provided by the performance awards, schools will have opportunities to buy better computers, better software, make much-needed improvements to classrooms, and, most important, purchase top-flight instructional materials — all of which go toward a more well-rounded educational experience for our children and our leaders of tomorrow.

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Additionally, those schools set to receive the Governor's Performance Award will receive school site employee performance bonuses, although monetary amounts associated with that award have yet to be announced.

The bonus award is great in that it recognizes the teachers, teachers' aids, administrators and other school employees who put so much time and effort into providing a quality education for Valley children and a nurturing environment in which students can learn and grow. Another interesting component of this award is an equal amount of money going to employee bonuses will go to the schools for use much like the governor's award.

A third award connected to the API is on the way, although it is tied up in litigation.

Dubbed the certified staff performance incentive award — which goes only to teachers and administrators in most cases — it would go to the school staffs that showed the biggest improvements statewide. One thousand staffs could be awarded $25,000; 3,750 staffs could get $10,000; and 7,500 staffs, $5,000. Still, local school administrators have said that is subject to change as a result of pending litigation over the way in which schools are qualified for the bonuses.

Regardless of the outcome of the third award, the other awards further showcase the good job county educators are doing and the hard work local students are putting in. And let's not forget those involved parents who sit on school site councils and sit at the dinner table in the evenings and help their children with homework and thereby support the efforts of local educators.

Let's hope those schools that made improvements this year that make them eligible for monetary awards are joined in the coming year by the rest of the county's schools. Let's also hope local school officials awarded money will continue to make improvements in education and not sit on the laurels of beefed-up test scores, because a well-rounded education is more than just looking good on the API.

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