The state-mandated Quality Performance Accreditation program has translated into additional monetary costs for the Lawrence school district.
Hard evidence can be found in the requests from several Lawrence schools to use district funds for QPA.
But some people are more concerned about a less tangible cost: the time and energy that teachers and administrators must devote to QPA and other efforts to restructure education.
"We have a very crowded school day as far as time goes," said Lawrence High School Principal Brad Tate. "School improvement's important, but when you have a daily operation and things to take care of right now, it just puts a real pressure on you."
When he was appointed this month to a committee of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Tate said the major challenge facing Kansas is performance assessment.
QPA is the state's new method of accrediting schools, and Lawrence is one of 50 districts that piloted the program when it started in 1991. About 200 other districts have joined the program since then.
Twelve Lawrence schools presently are involved with QPA.
One QPA requirement is that schools collect data on their students to develop a school profile. Such data could include standardized test scores and student attendance records.
Based on such data, a school targets areas for improvement and continues to use data as an indicator of the school's progress.
The process has translated into extra costs for the Lawrence school district.
As a result of Lawrence teacher negotiations, $50,000 was earmarked to assist schools with improvement efforts during 1992-93. All that money has been allocated, and another $50,000 has been set aside for this school year.
Individual schools propose ways to use the funds, and the District Improvement Team approves allocations. Among funding that was approved during 1992-93:
- $2,100 helped Quail Run School to develop a computer program that would provide QPA schools a standardized way to collect and compare information.
- $2,180 helped Central Junior High School to collect and compile data for the annual update of its school profile.
- $987.50 that went to Grant School was used partly to begin building a database for QPA.
- $2,340 was allotted to Cordley School to help it "address the challenges of QPA."
All of the Cordley money was used to hire substitutes so teachers could have a break from classes to work on developing QPA. Other schools used funding in the same way, and some funding paid teachers for extra hours worked as they developed QPA.
Valerie Johnson-Powell, president of the Lawrence Education Assn., said teachers appreciate being compensated for extra work related to QPA or other school improvement efforts.
"It is nice sometimes to be compensated for doing what we know is good for kids," Johnson-Powell said.
She said she also likes the system the district has employed because it allows individual schools to take the initiative to request funding for special projects rather than allocating a certain amount per school.
Lawrence School Supt. Al Azinger said he hopes the Continuous Improvement Funds, although limited, send a message to teachers.
"We're at a point where there's a lot being asked of teachers, and this is an attempt to recognize that fact," Azinger said. "We think it's going to pay some dividends. At least at some schools, test scores have improved a little bit, but we have to look at that over the long haul."
P. Kay Duncan, the district's director of curriculum, said some district costs tied to QPA might have been incurred even if the state program didn't exist.
That's because even before QPA, the district was involved in similar school improvement efforts, Duncan said.
"Would we or would we not be coming up with new student assessments if there weren't QPA? My feeling is we would," she said.