Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Race To The Top

I attended the abbreviated BOE meeting on 2/9/10 to catch the budget briefing, but what I ended up finding most interesting was the presentation on the new "Race To The Top" federal educational grant program (Power Point presentation found here ). This grant program ushers in a new set of standards and assessments that local school systems will be forced to accept in order to be eligible for the money. What's interesting, and was pointed out during the presentation, is that the new standards and assessments will be in addition to NCLB, not in place of it. How the two sets of government mandates and controls will be reconciled was not addressed.

Per the presentation, the state of Maryland would be eligible for between $125,000,000 and $250,000,000. Fifty percent of that total would be distributed to the Local Education Agencies (LEAs), with the remainder staying at the state level. Of that total Charles County would be eligible for approximately $1.5 to $1.7 million. The question was asked what the state would use the remaining fifty percent (between $75,000,000 and $125,000,000) on, and the answer was to develop the new data collection systems, curricula, and standards and assessments. (Here is where I'd love to voice my opinion, but I made a promise)

Additional information included in the presentation:

  • All schools, including charter schools, are expected to "embrace the effort."
  • The MOU must be signed by the school superintendent, BOE president, and the local teachers' union leader (as of now, the EACC is refusing to sign)
  • Each LEA must develop a performance and evaluation plan
  • Lowest performing schools will get the most funding
  • Teachers and principals will be evaluated based on the achievement of the students in their control. Higher performing teachers and principals will be reassigned to lower achieving schools.
  • LEAs must adopt numerous state dictates on core standards, assessments, data collection, remedial actions, teacher and principal evaluations, etc.
  • Program will include four "intervention models" for underachieving schools.

Again, how all these new standards and criteria are going to exist side by side with NCLB has not been addressed. Considering all the overhead involved in simply running the program (local systems have to develop and maintain new data collection and analysis systems, new assessments for students, new evaluations for teachers and principals, and new reporting systems) one has to wonder how much of the $1.5 to $1.7 million will actually go toward anything remotely associated with instruction.


MikeB said...

I worked my ass off not to get sarcastic or opinionated in the actual blog post but I've got to come back and say it here. Upwards of $250,000,000 in federal grant money for the state and not a single penny of it going to anything even remotely resembling instruction or teaching. All of it is to overlay a new framework of data collection and analysis on top the existing ones. If you aren't getting the results you want, don't change what you're doing. Change how you analyze what you're doing. To the tune of a quarter billion dollars.

LegalBeaglette said...

Ah, Mike..."embrace the effort," my dear man.


(I agree with you, by the way.)

Anonymous said...

It is the fundamental problem with any testing or accountability scheme in education. There are too many variables to control. Student A who has a highly involved parent who has raised them with respect for authority and takes an active role in helping their kid with their education from even before pre-k will almost always do better on any measure than Student B with a disinterested parent who does not respect the importance of education or behavior, regardless of school or teacher.

Jennifer Abell said...

EACC Stance on RTTT:
"Be advised that the EACC has no intention signing a grant application for Race to the Top under the current restrictions it involves. We prefer that the Board put its scarce resources into real reforms, not public relations smoke and mirror tricks. We are concerned that some of the initiatives proposed by Dr. Grasmick will make it even harder for Charles County to recruit and retain quality teachers. The proposals will discourage teachers from wanting to work with students whose academic progress might be slower because of their abilities, but those are exactly the students who need the most help. The tenure changes she is proposing will actually delay the process for helping struggling teachers to either become successful or to be removed from their positions. We think some of the RTTT initiatives are good for students, but many of them are short-sighted and will hurt the school system. For the remote chance that we MIGHT gain $1 million or so for one year - after which it evaporates - the RTTT application is not worth the harm that it will cost our students."

LegalBeaglette said...

That is an interesting “stance.”

1) “make it harder to recruit and retain quality teachers” (the cost of living and lack of affordable housing…and some of the cultural aspects of living in Charles County…are certainly current factors)
2) “discourage teachers from wanting to work with students whose academic progress might be slower because of their abilities” (that is generally the case, regardless of RTTT, or NCLB, or MSPAP, or anything else)
3) “tenure changes will delay the process for helping struggling teachers to either become successful or to be removed from their positions”

What is a “struggling” teacher? Can I see the EACC list of the “strugglers?” Please? And how will tenure changes affect them? Should a “struggling” teacher be granted tenure? A tenured instructor should be able to readily demonstrate necessary classroom skills – whether it is knowledge of instructional content, classroom management, record-keeping, etc. At least I believe that should be the case.

I know teachers who have one year of experience, repeated twenty times. I also know educators who have twenty years experience and their skill in the classroom with all ranges of student ability are amazing. And there are lots in between.

The reference to teachers being “removed from their positions” interests me greatly. As I understand the EACC statement, the RTTT initiatives “will delay the process.” I have yet to become aware of a teacher who has been removed from the classroom for being a poor teacher, ever, and I have known some truly poor teachers. I am curious how RTTT could possibly delay “never” even further. Their colleagues (and administrators) are embarrassed by them, and make sure their own children avoid them if at all possible. Educated and experienced parents do, too.

And for those reasons, the RTTT application is not worth the harm that it "will cost our students?” Their students? Our children? I thought all those listed concerns dealt with teachers.

Anonymous said...

Look at the classrooms with 7 to 10 students in AP classes, but yet, the teachers lead the students to bomb the AP tests.

Yet, the county is so corrupted that they won't take a stand and fire these people that can't each 7 to 10 kids the material to obtain respectable AP scores.

These teachers know who they are. It's a corrupt system that goes round and round, encouraging more and more parents to either send their children to private schools, home school their children, or move out of the area completely.