Racing to the Top

Education can be a political sticky wicket.  I didn't really realize this when I became a teacher, hoping to leave behind the game playing and politics of a different profession.  As classroom teacher, I saw the adoption of "Nickle-B" as we affectionately called it and the impact it had on my classroom, the relationship I had with my administration and the need for me to learn even more.  Currently, as a leader and administrator, I am looking at the marathon implcations of the Race to the Top applications and perhaps, the revision of NCLB.

I have been reading the applications of various states as they have become available and noting with interest the language of the application writers.  Having tried my hand at various grants in the past, I recognized the "this would be a great idea if you fund me" language and the "we think this is what you want to hear but in reality we might not implement it this way" language that was used in various places.  Understandable - given the time states had to prepare and submit their application along with the various assurances.

Through Eduwonk, I stumbled upon the application of Louisiana which I had not read yet.  To quote the Washington Post Op-Ed piece that led me to the application:

And the plan is beautifully written.  It describes each area in which they have already begun implementation and then explains what they will do to continue the work.  It then adds other key initiatives to investigate and add to the application to make their work even more outstanding.
"The beauty of Louisiana's reform model lies in its simplicity. The state has taken critical baseline steps, it proposes expanding projects that have shown promising results, and it has ensured that participating school districts will actually do the things that are in the application. "

Some highlights I found (accent mine):

  • Facilitating the creation and usage of professional learning networks at district and school levels that emphasize,among other things, reflection on and continuous improvement of how teacher and leader practice contributes to student achievement and teacher effectiveness. This is already being piloted by Dr. Michael Fullan in St. John the Baptist Parish, a Participating LEA. (page 9) They had me at Fullan.
  • Integrating an Instructional Improvement System that will give teachers, leaders, and administrators rapid access to student achievement and teacher effectiveness data through mechanisms such as a dashboard. This integration will vastly increase the use of data to drive instructional improvement and will unequivocally show the effect teachers have on student learning. (Page 10)  We hate to hear it, but we know it is true.  What teachers do impacts student learning.
  • To support our strategy (of adopting 100% the common core standards), summative assessment results will be available within two weeks of test administration so they can be used to inform decisions about students and also to aid in the effective evaluation of teachers and schools. The test will be vertically scaled to provide a clear picture of annual student growth. We will extend the blueprint of the K-12 common assessment quickly to science and social studies so that we can ensure a rich view of student progress and the effectiveness of teachers can be measured more reliably. We will also evaluate and implement developmentally appropriate measures of progress for Pre-K aligned to the common core standards to ensure students are on track at the earliest ages. (Page 10)
  • To implement the state’s ambitious plans and provide a level of service that supports successful reform similar to the responsiveness shown to the RSD, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) will accelerate a process that began more than two years ago to transform itself from a compliance monitoring bureaucracy to a performance-based and service-oriented school support institution. (Page 12)
There are 251 additional pages of the application but these are some pieces that had me thinking about the work that my state is (or isn't) doing.   And while not perfect, it gives me hope that the amount of money being poured into the Race to the Top applications might actually create change.

What does your state application say? If you are from Louisiana, how accurate are the claims made in the application? Inquiring minds want to know...


Mrs. Tenkely said...

Wow there is a lot here. I need to take a look at Colorado's. Do you think if districts start mandating PLN involvement (in there tools) that it will lessen a PLN's strength? I think part of the reason the personally built PLN's are so effective is that we have ownership in them.

Theresa G said...

I am currently working with two districts who are, or will for next year, adopt a collegial circle approach for learning. It came from the teachers, is being supported by the administration and the work as a result is amazing. While it is mandated - the fact that teachers are given choice over their learning and development has been a huge plus. I think the key will be to embrace this approach as an opportunity rather than to view it as a mandate.
As for Colorado's application - you can find it here.