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For the second board meeting in a row, Superintendent Julie Janssen this week postponed bringing a contract for hiring a researcher to explore why black students in Pinellas struggle more than black students in other big Florida districts. The reason, she said: The project may be bigger than initially suggested.

The district needs to "step back and look at all the pieces," Janssen told The Gradebook.

Hiring Northwestern University professor David Figlio to slice and dice the data is still part of the plan, she said. But she said the district needs to look at both quantitative and qualitative pieces, and to develop an "action plan." She said she wants to involve other Northwestern professors, the Lastinger Center at the University of Florida and community members.

Bottom line, she said: The scope of the project has yet to be determined. And until then, it won't be clear how much it will cost, and what sources should be tapped for it.

Janssen ruled out use of district funds. "I'm not going to spend district money," she said, apart from the cost of bringing Figlio down last week. "I don't intend to do that, even though I think it will be money well spent. I think people will be absolutely critical of that, and I'm very sensitive to that."

Janssen said one potential source of funding may be a Kellogg Foundation grant that has been awarded to the Lastinger Center.

Figlio is ready to roll. A proposed contract says he would be paid $1,250 per day ($156 per hour), with a total anticipated at less than $50,000. (Figlio and another researcher also did achievement-gap work for the district back in 2006, when the district was being sued for allegedly failing to educate black students. We asked the district last week how much he was paid back then, but have not gotten a complete answer yet. His 2006 contract indicates his expenses would not exceed $25,000 unless the parties agreed in writing to go beyond that.)

Janssen said she expects details to be solidified in the next couple of weeks. She said the district is already gathering data for Figlio.

Posted by ronmatus at 8:32:37 am on May 12, 2011