’s Race to the Top: Teachers Left Behind?
week, Secretary Duncan announced the winners of the Race to the Top.
won. Interestingly, the applications they submitted are online in their
entirety. You can pack a lunch and while the hours away, reading sentences like
“An educator will simply not be considered Effective if his/her students are
not learning and an educator will not be considered Ineffective if his/her
students are in fact learning.” (That was from page D-9 of
’s application.) But after too much of this, you’re not laughing until your
sides hurt. You’re wondering how
all the time, money and energy spent emphasizing the worst aspects of education
is going to redefine your profession and if you’ll still recognize it when
to the Top” never sat well with me. Personally,
I’m not crazy about education becoming a competition for funding. Shouldn’t
the goal be to improve education for all children, not pit states against one
another for grant money? NYSUT
President Dick Iannuzzi summed it up when he said, “We’ve gone from no child
left behind to every child---except the ones who win---left behind.”
White House Race to the Top Fact Sheet explains that states are awarded grant
money based on “designing and implementing rigorous standards and high-quality
assessments; attracting and keeping great teachers and leaders in America’s
classrooms;” “supporting data
systems that inform decisions and improve instruction;” “using innovation
and effective approaches to turn around struggling schools;” and
“demonstrating and sustaining educational reform.” Lifting the cap on
charter schools was a decided advantage. States whose teacher unions endorsed
reforms were given preference as well.
favorite goal is “attracting and keeping great teachers and leaders in
’s classrooms.” The White House fact sheet describes this as “expanding
effective support to teachers and principals; reforming and improving teacher
preparation; revising teacher evaluation, compensation, and retention policies
to encourage and reward effectiveness; and working to ensure that our most
talented teachers are placed in the schools and subjects where they are needed
the most.” RTTT requires that teacher evaluation be at least partially based
on results of standardized tests, the cornerstone of the unintelligent and
underfunded No Child Left Behind. I’m
not sure why great teachers would find that particularly attractive.
standardized testing, Delaware uses value-added assessments which, according to
the Center for Greater Philadelphia, work as follows: “Based on a review of
students' test score gains from previous grades, researchers can predict the
amount of growth those students are likely to make in a given year. Thus,
value-added assessment can show whether particular students - those taking a
certain algebra class, say - have made the expected amount of progress, have
made less progress than expected, or have been stretched beyond what they could
reasonably be expected to achieve. Using the same methods, one can look back
over several years to measure the long-term impact that a particular teacher or
school had on student achievement.” While
this is certainly superior to older methods of assessing student and school
progress, I still wouldn’t feel comfortable with Delaware’s new plan that
allows tenured teachers to be let go if they are rated as “ineffective”,
based on student achievement data for two years.
document promises “the State plans to implement a clear approach for measuring
student growth by July 2011.” Teachers will be rated “Highly Effective,”
“Effective”, “Needs Improvement,” and “Ineffective” with “Highly
Effective” reserved for those whose students improve by more than a grade
level in a year. Teachers will be evaluated based on five areas as outlined in
the Charlotte Danielson system. (http://www.danielsongroup.org/theframeteach.htm)
The areas are planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction,
professional responsibilities and student improvement. Teachers who are
“ineffective” for two years or combine “needs improvement” and
“ineffective” over a period of three years must change by following an
“improvement plan” or lose their jobs. “Highly Effective” teachers can
become “Teacher Leaders” who will be used to mentor colleagues,
“strengthen the culture of the school and to improve the quality of
instruction.” They will also receive extra pay.
pay turns up in a few different places in
application. There is merit pay, though it is not called that. There will be
“differentiated compensation” for highly effective and effective teachers in
vital disciplines or classes that are hard to staff. Also, effective teachers
who volunteer to work in low performing schools will receive bonuses of up to
$5000 and retention bonuses approximated to be between $8500 and $10,000 for
staying at those schools. This
sounds like a powerful incentive to work in a high-needs school until you
remember that if the high-needs school doesn’t start performing, 50 percent of
the teachers and the principal can still be removed a la
A lot of teachers may think “Keep your incentive pay. I’ll stay in a school
that is already performing.”
driven” is one of the key terms in
new view of education. But, how to make sense of all this data and use it to
influence teacher practices?
data coaches will be hired “to support the transition to data-driven
instruction and the implementation of instructional improvement systems.” The
coaches will “help teachers develop the technical skills to analyze data and
the pedagogical skills to adjust instruction based on the data.” There will be
one coach for every two hundred teachers.
proposal estimates that teachers will receive three 90-minute coaching sessions
per month, including two facilitated sessions and one observation. The coaches,
who are employed by third parties, will be assessed based on evaluations from
teachers and administrators.
application even specifies that there will be “clear consequences for
ineffective trainers.” Administrators will also be coached on how to evaluate
teachers’ union sign on to all this? Diane Donohue, president of the Delaware
State Education Association told the Washington
Post, “No one’s naïve…this is going to be very challenging work.
Absolutely, we’re taking a risk.” Donohue agreed to the terms in order to be
sure that teachers had some impact on the final proposal. Quoting NEA President
Dennis Van Roekel, she said, “I’d rather be at the table than on the
menu.” I’m not sure the two are mutually exclusive.
of the ideas in
RTTT application are very good. There are various paths to teacher certification
and the state is going to foot the bill for its high school students to take the
SAT. I like the idea of paying
teachers in high-needs schools more, but I’m not foolish enough to think that
will be enough to turn around an impoverished and violent school district.
RTTT’s goals seem dedicated to making teaching a sort of actuarial science in
which student success is easily quantified and always the result of teachers
alone. Those of us who teach know
how simple a view this is of a very complex profession.
of the variables in student achievement is always parenting.
RTTT application is short on parental responsibility beyond the following
also recognizes that school environments are not shaped by students and
educators alone and will work to improve community and parental involvement in
schools.” The details that follow are noticeably vague.
Social studies teacher Thomas
commented, “What really gets a lot of us is there’s nothing here about
parents being accountable for lack of parental support, and student
responsibility…this can’t be all my fault.”
bet on it.
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