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.