Have you been following the state’s plan to apply for Round II of Race to the Top funding? It’s been quiet lately, but lots of work has been going on behind the scenes. Six districts — Fresno Unified, LAUSD, Sacramento City, Sanger Unified, Clovis Unified and of course SFUSD — have been working together to craft a different approach for California to take this time (after a dismal showing in Round I).
I have to admit that I briefly lost sight of the process, and I did a double-take when I read this and this — accounts of what districts participating in Round 2 of Race to the Top are agreeing to, based on the final version of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was released on Tuesday. According to John Fensterwald:
This time, there will be no coaxing or convincing, with a wink or a nod, that districts can always back out later if they don’t like the terms. This time, the state’s not going all out to build a big tent of participants at the sacrifice of strong commitments. This time, superintendents, local union presidents and presidents of the boards of trustees should sign the dotted line only if they’re prepared to agree to a specific and lengthy set of reforms.
He’s not alone. Even the state’s FAQ for school districts considering participation in Round 2 says:
Unlike Round 1, California will not be allowing opt-outs for Round 2. There are two reasons: 1) there is significant point loss if signers are not committed and have the ability to back out; 2) in the interest of time, we have to have a full commitment to move forward. We are hoping we will get more than the six superintendents, but these six have made the commitment and if that’s all that sign on we will still have the representation of over 1 million students; more than the two states that won Round 1.
The timeline is very short: at a special meeting tomorrow, the Board will be asked to formally adopt the MOU — a signed version is due back in Sacramento by Friday. I’m still absorbing everything that is in the document, but I’ve already noted some elements that need more discussion — like basing 30 percent of every teacher and principal evaluation on growth in student achievement (as measured by CST scores?) The stakes are very high here, and yet all of this is feeling to me like a bit of a rush job.
California news & views re:
“Race to the Top” – Round 2 MOU – (SEE EXCERPT BELOW) —
“San Diego Unified spokesman Bernie Rhinerson said the same reasons that kept the school district from pursuing Race to the Top (Round 1) are even more pressing this time: the requirements are too limiting and the process is rushed. The school board has not voted formally on it, but Rhinerson said there was little interest in the idea.
It isn’t the only educational group with doubts:
The California County Superintendents Educational Services Association sent out an e-mail saying that with a short timeline, little detail about what resources schools would get to make reforms and ‘the total lack of state policy direction,’ they wouldn’t recommend that school districts sign on. San Diego County Superintendent Randy Ward forwarded that
e-mail to superintendents across San Diego County, writing simply that he agreed. ”
— see article source:
I really hope you adopt the MOU… look, the best teachers have greater effect on student achievement than any other factor. Dan Goldhaber, an education researcher at the University of Washington, reported, “The effect of increases in teacher quality swamps the impact of any other educational investment, such as reductions in class size.” See http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/05/teachers-unions-still-a-huge-obstacle-to-reform/57026/. At the end of the day, the measures to ensure high teacher quality have to measured somehow, someway. Regardless of what organizations such as Fairtest say, there are clear links between student CST (or any other std test) performance and the teacher’s ability.
As long as growth is measured against some sort of ‘similar school’ or ‘similar student’ metric, this sounds like something I could get behind – especially bringing principals into all this as all we’ve been hearing about is going after teachers, teachers, teachers.
Teachers in my school are saying they, and the majority of their colleagues, are getting fed up with working hard to move their students forward academically and knowing that there is a teacher next door teaching the same group of students that is not making progress. Measuring progress across teachers within the same school and same student populations will be interesting. Those who are intimate with school data will tell you that it is very clear within a school which teachers are making academic progress with students (i.e. are ‘good’) and which aren’t just by looking at the data over a couple of years. I’ve been told “it’s the same teachers that students complain about, parents complain about, and teachers whisper to you about.”
30 percent seems reasonable to me.
Make it happen – it’s time.