Funding Formulas and the Future: a brief polemic to end the week

| June 18, 2010

In the past week, two curious stories in education flew under the radar of most national media. The state of Rhode Island finalized a new school funding formula, ending its twenty-year regime as the only state in the union not to have one,  reported the Providence Journal on Thursday. Elsewhere along the BosWash Megalopolis, Philadelphia’s School of the Future (SOF), a joint venture with Microsoft that garnered a lot of press at its inception in 2006, graduated its first senior class.

Generated through the collaboration of RI’s Department of Education and researchers from Brown University, the funding formula involves a lot of economics and policy details that do not particularly excite me (as a learner, not a stakeholder). Taking a look at several states’ presentations of their school finance information, though, did register some curiosity as to why policymakers have not found more palatable ways to visualize their data.  Even if our expectations of bureaucracy are limited, it’s worth considering how long it will take for the primacy the Obama Administration gave to data viz with to trickle down (as On the Media discussed with America’s Information Minister).

SOF has been the subject of a lot of hype, and more recently criticism, over the past three years, which you can read more about here and here. Contrary to what the second article implies, however, the failure of technology-centric instruction and school environment to engage students may not be due to a “culture clash” between non-white, lower-income learners and educators. “Technology” (which in SOF manifests itself as smartboards, laptops, and lockers that open at the swipe of an ID) is not a uniform entity; SOF students might me more familiar with social media absent in the Microsoft-heavy curriculum. Keeping cultural essentialisms and deficit thinking out of conversations about the integration of technology into learning is necessary.