San Francisco's Lowell High School was one of the first California schools to voice opposition to the awards. That was an irony itself. Governor Grey Davis, in announcing the program, implied that the most deserving schools would be those in the poorest communities. Teachers there, presumably motivated by cash prizes, would inspire pupils to make big jumps in test scores. Instead, Lowell is San Francisco's premier elite campus, whose students are selected based on their previous high academic achievement.
Under the Academic Performance Index award program, 4800 schools like Lowell were selected to receive a total of $350 million as rewards for increased scores. All personnel at the chosen schools shared in the money - each receiving $591.
"Don't get me wrong - we've got great faculty here at Lowell, and as teachers we certainly deserve more money," said Ken Tray, site representative for United Educators of San Francisco. "But our friends and colleagues at Balboa High, for instance, also work their tails off. The awards are a slap in the face for them, not recognizing the hard work they do."
Lowell teachers decided to encourage voluntary donations to a scholarship fund for students at schools which
didn't receive the award. Tray says teachers supported the idea because the awards "seem like a back-door merit pay system." Even Lowell's principal, Paul Cheng, contributed his award to the fund.