I read this report released today by the US DOE, called Fundamental Change: Innovation in America’s Schools Under Race to the Top and found it to be laughable at best. I’ll start off with the biggest and boldest first:
Race to the Top used transparency to advance knowledge about improving education and allow states to learn from each other.
What was not transparent was how schools, districts, teachers, parents and students were hoodwinked into believing this lie. The caveat behind this Federal mandate disguised as a financial incentive was requirements to engage with outside companies with this money.
State work under the grants ended in summer 2015…
For Delaware, this part is completely false since the DOE and Governor Markell used parts of the state General Fund to keep Race To The Top created positions at the DOE. This is hysterical, because the work continues. They may not be getting federal funds anymore, but most states are using what they did from Race To The Top at all levels and implementing changes designed not to truly help students but to give their bloated Department of Education employees and leaders high salaries while contracting all their work to outside vendors.
State education agencies (SEAs) as drivers of change. SEAs moved beyond their traditional role of monitoring district compliance to driving comprehensive and systemic changes to improve teaching and learning across the state.
They are still accountability machines. They live and die by compliance as never before. Who are you kidding?
Improved, more collaborative, and productive relationships between states and districts. States worked more collaboratively with districts and increased their own capacity to effectively and efficiently support districts and schools in ways that were responsive to local needs.
Yeah, between states maybe, and the districts that sign up for all the personalized learning grants while selling students souls to Satan!
Better communication. States improved lines of communication with stakeholders and used a range of tools (e.g., social media platforms) to continuously gather input from teachers, parents, school leaders, stakeholders and the public to determine the additional supports needed to be successful in carrying out their work.
They certainly used a range of tools in Delaware. I could name many of those tools, but I would hate to offend anyone. And many of those tools either gained tremendous financial or political gain from all of this. And the whole “stakeholder input” never mattered because our DOE didn’t listen to what parents were truly saying and did what they wanted to do anyways.
Higher standards. All Race to the Top states recognized the value of adopting higher standards that are similar across states. Each Race to the Top state implemented challenging kindergarten through 12th-grade academic content standards aimed at preparing students for success in college and careers. With improved standards, teachers, students and parents have a clear roadmap for what students need to know and be able to do to be prepared for success.
The clear roadmap called Common Core, where all students should be on the same level playing field across the country, but all the assessments designed for it are different? That clear roadmap you say? And the jury is still way out on if these were “improved” standards.
Teachers support each other to effectively implement higher standards. Teachers worked together to create tools and resources to help them understand the standards and how best to implement them in their classrooms. Hands-on, job-embedded training helped teachers transition to the new content and develop instructional tools, such as sample lesson plans and instructional videos, to translate the standards into effective classroom practices.
Teachers learned how to band together and collectively groan about everything the Feds and the States did to them. You make it sound like it was such a wonderful and collaborative thing, but it wasn’t and it still isn’t. Let’s get it straight: the standards were designed for teachers to teach to the state assessment. Most teachers I know can’t stand these assessments and hate everything that comes with it.
Monitoring student progress during the school year. Every Race to the Top state developed resources and assessment tools that teachers can use in their classrooms to monitor student progress during the school year. Rather than focus on test preparation for the statewide assessment at the end of the school year, nearly all states introduced instructional resources for the classroom that measure higher-order thinking skills, including critical thinking and complex problem-solving.
You can change the words however you want, it is still teaching to the test.
Increased access to and use of objective information on student outcomes. States made critical investments in improving systems to compile student outcome data from pre-kindergarten through the workforce, while protecting personally identifiable information. As outcome data for schools and districts become more accessible to the public, a variety of stakeholders, including parents, policymakers and researchers, will be better able to use these data to answer important questions about educational outcomes, such as “Did students make a year’s worth of growth?” and “Are students succeeding, regardless of income, race, ethnicity or disability?”
That last line is the biggest joke of all. Because income, race, ethnicity and disability can make a huge difference in a student’s life, especially as those factors combine! And we don’t know how much of our children’s data is being farmed out under certain FERPA laws and state regulations.
Local stakeholder engagement. Dramatic improvements in schools require the involvement of community members who understand local contexts and conditions, both inside and outside the school building, to help identify challenges and design solutions. States, districts, teachers, school leaders and community stakeholders are working together to implement strategies to improve the learning environments in their lowest-performing schools and provide services to meet students’ academic and nonacademic needs.
In Delaware, we call this Rodel and the Vision Coalition. This local stakeholder engagement has been going on for ten years with little or no results except their CEO going from $170,000+ to a salary of $344,000 in a decade.
New performance management approaches. States are using performance management approaches to help districts support effective interventions in their lowest-performing schools. These approaches help states and districts identify problems, set goals to solve them and use data to track progress.
We call these priority schools and focus schools in Delaware. Or “Partnership Zone” schools. This is where our state blames teachers for standardized testing scores and do not factor in a lack of resources, funding, neurological disabilities, or issues outside of schools.
States used state-level funds to support districts. In addition to the 50 percent of the total grant award subgranted to districts, many states designed their state-level projects to distribute additional funds to districts. For example, New York competitively distributed nearly $80 million of its state-level “Teachers and Leaders” funds to districts to implement their plans to develop, implement or enhance teacher recruitment, development and retention.
Delaware farmed out millions upon millions of dollars to outside companies, some internal and some external, instead of giving the funds to the districts to lower classroom sizes and get more teachers and extra support.
Some states, such as Hawaii, Delaware and Massachusetts, created a separate office or designated an existing office to plan and coordinate Race to the Top initiatives across different offices
And then the Delaware DOE lied to their General Assembly when the funds ran out and found a way to keep those positions in our DOE without anyone the wiser.
…and Delaware created specific units within their state departments of education and used real-time data to assess whether projects were moving forward and producing quality results.
Results based on federal mandates that were neither Congressionally approved or regulatory in nature…
“We really keep coming back to three questions: Are we doing what we said we would do? Are we doing it well? Is it making a difference?” said Delaware’s former chief performance officer.
Which former chief performance officer is this? I’m guessing this is why he or she is a former chief performance officer if they were asking questions like this in our dictatorial state led by the not-so-great Delaware Governor Jack Markell.
Beginning in 2008, the state-led effort included governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia and was informed by the best state standards already in use and the experiences of teachers, school administrators, content experts, state leaders and the public. From the beginning, state and local officials and educators took responsibility for adopting and implementing the standards, and for making decisions about how the standards are taught, how the curriculum is developed, and what materials are used to support teachers in helping students meet the standards.
Yes, the beginning of the cabal of the National Governor’s Association and the Council of Chief State School Officer’s in leading the Common Core initiative where the two true educators in this design group dropped out from the development of these standards. Then the districts were essentially brow-beaten, pressured, and lied to if they didn’t accept funds during a recession when states were cash-poor.
As a result, each Race to the Top state developed measures of growth in student learning and made the data available to teachers, school leaders, district leaders and, in some cases, parents. These measure of growth in student learning provided a reliable measure of teachers’ contributions to student learning because they addressed a student’s proficiency across multiple years on a valid assessment that was comparable across classrooms and schools
“Valid assessment”. I really don’t need to go any further on this one, do I?
In Delaware, the state hired data coaches to work directly with school leaders and teachers to lead professional learning communities.
The data coaches, who got tons of money. Like the Vision Coalition in Delaware…
For many Race to the Top states and districts, the initiatives they implemented during the grant period have remained priorities that SEAs are now better equipped to support and continue. For example, Delaware’s performance management system did not exist prior to the grant period and will continue without Race to the Top funds. The state also will continue to implement, as part of its state capacity-building plan, its data analyses and biannual conversations with district leaders to better understand what is happening in districts and develop supports that match local needs. Through its district budget plan approval process, Delaware also is encouraging districts to use available funding streams to support work they found to be effective in their schools, such as using allowable federal funds for professional supports for teachers.
Our DOE might want to check with our General Assembly before they commit to all this. Oh wait, they will answer to our Joint Finance Committee on 11/30/15 for their devious budget actions…
As directed in the report, the citation for this report belongs to U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of State Support, Fundamental Change: Innovation in America’s Schools Under Race to the Top, Washington, D.C., 2015