Definitions

Achievement gap: The difference in the performance between each ESEA subgroup (as defined in this document) within a participating LEA or school and the statewide average performance of the LEA's or State's highest achieving subgroups in reading/language arts and mathematics as measured by the assessments required under the ESEA.

College- and career-ready graduation requirements: Minimum high school graduation expectations (e.g., completion of a minimum course of study, content mastery, proficiency on college- and career-ready assessments, etc.) that include rigorous, robust, and well-rounded curriculum aligned with college- and career-ready standards (as defined in this document) that cover a wide range of academic and technical knowledge and skills to ensure that students leave high school ready for college and careers.

College- and career-ready standards: Content standards for kindergarten through 12th grade that build towards college- and career-ready graduation requirements (as defined in this document) by the time of high school graduation. A State's college- and career-ready standards must be either (1) standards that are common to a significant number of States; or (2) standards that are approved by a State network of institutions of higher education, which must certify that students who meet the standards will not need remedial course work at the postsecondary level.

College enrollment: The enrollment in college of students who graduate from high school consistent with 34 CFR 200.19(b)(1) and who enroll in an institution of higher education (as defined in section 101 of the Higher Education Act, P.L. 105-244, 20 U.S.C. 1001) within 16 months of graduation.

Consortium governance structure: The consortium's structure for carrying out its operations, including—

  1. The organizational structure of the consortium and the differentiated roles that a member LEA may hold (e.g., lead LEA, fiscal agent);
  2. For each differentiated role, the rights and responsibilities (including adopting and implementing the consortium's proposal for a grant) associated with the role;
  3. The consortium's method and process (e.g., consensus, majority) for making different types of decisions (e.g., policy, operational);
  4. The protocols by which the consortium will operate, including the protocols for member LEAs to change roles or leave the consortium;
  5. The consortium's plan for managing funds received under the requested this grant;
  6. The terms and conditions of the Memoranda of Understanding or other binding agreements executed by each member LEA, including the consistency of the terms and conditions with the consortium's governance structure and the LEA's role in the consortium; and
  7. The consortium's procurement process, and evidence of each member LEA's commitment to that process.

Core educational assurance areas:

  • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
  • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
  • Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.

Digital learning content: Learning materials and resources that can be displayed on a digital device and shared electronically with other users. Digital learning content includes both open and or commercial content. In order to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, any digital learning content used by grantees must be accessible to individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use screen readers. For additional information regarding their application to technology, please refer to www.ed.gov/ocr/letters/colleague-201105-ese.pdf and www.ed.gov/ocr/docs/dcl-ebook-faq-201105.pdf.

Educators: All education professionals and paraprofessionals working in participating schools (as defined in this document), including principals or other heads of a school, teachers, other professional instructional staff (e.g. staff involved in curriculum development, staff development, or operating library, media and computer centers), pupil support services staff (e.g. guidance counselors, nurses, speech pathologists, etc.), other administrators (e.g. assistant principals, discipline specialists.), and paraprofessionals (e.g. assistant teachers, instructional aides).

Graduation rate: The four-year or extended-year adjusted cohort graduation rate as defined by 34 CFR 200.19(b)(1).

High-needs students: Students at risk of educational failure or otherwise in need of special assistance and support, such as students who are living in poverty, who attend high-minority schools (as defined in the Race to the Top application), who are far below grade level, who have left school before receiving a regular high school diploma, who are at risk of not graduating with a diploma on time, who are homeless, who are in foster care, who have been incarcerated, who have disabilities, or who are English learners.

Interoperable data system: System that uses common, established structure such that data can easily flow from one system to another and in which data are in a non-proprietary, open format.

Local educational agency: As defined in ESEA, a public board of education or other public authority legally constituted within a State for either administrative control or direction of, or to perform a service function for, public elementary schools or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district, or other political subdivision of a State, or for a combination of school districts or counties that is recognized in a State as an administrative agency for its public elementary schools or secondary schools.

Low-performing schools: Schools that are in the bottom 10 percent of performance in the State, or who have significant achievement gaps, based on student academic performance in reading/language arts and mathematics on the assessments required under the ESEA or graduation rates (as defined in this document).

Metadata about content alignment: Information about how digital learning content assesses, teaches, and depends on (requires) common content standards such as State academic standards.

On-track indicator: A measure, available at a time sufficiently early to allow for intervention, of a single student characteristic (e.g., number of days absent, number of discipline referrals, number of credits earned), or a composite of multiple characteristics, that is both predictive of student success (e.g., students demonstrating the measure graduate at an 80 percent rate) and comprehensive of students who succeed (e.g., of all graduates, 90 percent demonstrated the indicator). Using multiple indicators that are collectively comprehensive but vary by student characteristics may be an appropriate alternative to a single indicator that applies to all students.

Open data format: Data which is available in a non-proprietary, machine-readable format such that it can be understood by a computer (such as XML and JSON formats). Digital formats which require extraction, data translation such as optical character recognition, or other manipulation in order to be used in electronic systems are not machine-readable formats.

Open-standard registry: A platform, such as The Learning Registry, that facilitates the exchange of (1) metadata about content alignment and (2) information about how digital learning content is being used by educators in diverse learning environments across the web.

Participating schools: Schools that are identified by the LEA or consortium and choose to work with the LEA to implement the LEA(s)' Race to the Top plan, either in a specific grade span or subject area or in the entire school.

Participating students: Students enrolled in a participating school (as defined in this document), grades, or subject areas and directly served by a Race to the Top District plan.

Persistently lowest-achieving schools: As determined by the State, consistent with the requirements of the School Improvement Grants program authorized by section 1003(g) of the ESEA,

  1. Any Title I school in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring that (a) Is among the lowest-achieving five percent of Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring or the lowest-achieving five Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring in the State, whichever number of schools is greater; or (b) Is a high school that has had a graduation rate as defined in 34 CFR 200.19(b) that is less than 60 percent over a number of years; and
  2. Any secondary school that is eligible for, but does not receive, Title I funds that (a) Is among the lowest-achieving five percent of secondary schools or the lowest-achieving five secondary schools in the State that are eligible for, but do not receive, Title I funds, whichever number of schools is greater; or (b) Is a high school that has had a graduation rate as defined in 34 CFR 200.19(b) that is less than 60 percent over a number of years.
  3. To identify the lowest-achieving schools, a State must take into account both (i) The academic achievement of the "all students" group in a school in terms of proficiency on the State's assessments under section 1111(b)(3) of the ESEA in reading/language arts and mathematics combined; and (ii) The school's lack of progress on those assessments over a number of years in the "all students" group.

Personalized learning plan: A formal document, available in digital and other formats both in and out of school to students, parents, and teachers, that, at a minimum: establishes student learning goals based on academic and career objectives and personal interests; sequences content and skill development to achieve those learning goals and ensure that a student can graduate on-time college- and career-ready; and is updated based on information about student performance on a variety of activities and assessments that indicate progress towards goals.

Principal evaluation system: A system that: (1) will be used for continual improvement of instruction; (2) meaningfully differentiates performance using at least three performance levels; (3) uses multiple valid measures in determining performance levels, including as a significant factor data on student growth(as defined in this document) for all students (including English learners and students with disabilities), and other measures of professional practice (which may be gathered through multiple formats and sources, such as observations based on rigorous leadership performance standards, teacher evaluation data, and student and parent surveys); (4) evaluates principals on a regular basis; (5) provides clear, timely, and useful feedback, including feedback that identifies needs for and guides professional development; and (6) will be used to inform personnel decisions.

School board evaluation: An assessment of the LEA school board that both evaluates performance and encourages professional growth. This evaluation system rating should reflect both (1) the feedback of many stakeholders, including but not limited to educators and parents; and (2) student outcomes performance in order to provide a detailed and accurate picture of the board's performance.

School leadership team: A team that is composed of the principal or other head of a school, teachers and other educators, and, as applicable, other school employees, parents, students, and other community members, and leads the implementation of improvement and other initiatives at the school. In cases where statute or local policy, including collective bargaining agreements, call for such a body, that body shall serve the school leadership team for the purpose of this program.

Student attendance: During the regular school year, the average percentage of days that students are present for school. Students should not be considered present for excused absences, unexcused absences, or any period of time that they are out of their regularly assigned classrooms due to discipline measures (i.e., in- or out-of-school suspension).

Student survey: Measures students' perspectives on teaching, learning, and related supports in their classrooms and schools. The surveys must be research-based, valid, and reliable. Over time these results should be predictive of rates of student growth.

Student Growth: The change in student achievement for an individual student between two or more points in time, defined as—

  1. For grades and subjects in which assessments are required under ESEA section 1111(b)(3): (1) a student's score on such assessments and (2) other measures of student learning, such as those described in the second bullet, provided they are rigorous and comparable across schools within an LEA.
  2. For grades and subjects in which assessments are not required under ESEA section 1111(b)(3): alternative measures of student learning and performance, such as student results on pre-tests, end-of-course tests, and objective performance-based assessments; performance against student learning objectives; student performance on English language proficiency assessments; and other measures of student achievement that are rigorous and comparable across schools within an LEA.

Student-level data: Demographic, performance, and other information that pertains to a single student but cannot be attributed to a specific student.

Student performance data: Information about the academic progress of a single student, such as formative and summative assessment data, coursework, instructor observations, information about student engagement and time on task, and similar information.

Subgroup: Each category of students identified under ESEA section 1111(b)(2)(C)(v)(II).

Superintendent evaluation: Rigorous, transparent, and fair annual evaluation for the LEA superintendent that provides an assessment of performance and encourages professional growth. This evaluation rating should reflect (1) the feedback of many stakeholders, including but not limited to educators, principals, and parents; and (2) student outcomes performance in order to provide a detailed and accurate picture of the superintendent's performance.

Teacher attendance: During the regular school year, the average percentage of days that teachers are present when they would otherwise be expected to be teaching students in an assigned class. Teachers should not be considered present for days taken for sick leave and/or personal leave. Personal leave includes voluntary absences for reasons other than sick leave.

Teacher evaluation system: System that: (1) will be used for continual improvement of instruction; (2) meaningfully differentiates performance using at least three performance levels; (3) uses multiple valid measures in determining performance levels, including as a significant factor data on student growth (as defined in this document) for all students (including English learners and students with disabilities), and other measures of professional practice (which may be gathered through multiple formats and sources, such as observations based on rigorous teacher performance standards, teacher portfolios, and student and parent surveys); (4) evaluates teachers on a regular basis; (5) provide clear, timely, and useful feedback, including feedback that identifies needs and guides professional development; and (6) will be used to inform personnel decisions.

Turnaround strategy: As defined by the School Improvement Grant (SIG) regulations, published in the Federal Register on October 28, 2010 (75 FR 66363), turnaround model, restart model, school closure, or transformational model.

Comments

Citizen Schools recommends the Department expand the definition of educator to include full-time afterschool and expanded learning time staff working directly with students; and add a definition for “expanded learning time” and “nonprofit partner”--

Expanded Learning Time: programming that provides a substantial increase (at least 30 percent more) in total learning time, and enroll all, or a large portion (such as a whole grade level), of a school in the ELT schedule: delivers services that integrate academics, enrichment and skills development; offers a range of activities that capture student interest and strengthen student engagement in learning, promote higher class attendance, improve retention and reduce risk for drop out, and make graduation and college and career readiness more likely; collects data on student learning and needs to inform program design and use data to maximize coordination of teaching and support services among teachers, families and community learning partners; is delivered in strong partnerships with community based organizations that: offer students additional time for academic instruction aligned with their academic needs, while also providing engaging enrichment activities that contribute to a well-rounded education; provide administrators, teachers, and community learning partners with increased opportunities to work collaboratively, and to participate in professional development and planning, within and across grades and subjects to improve instruction; and provide students with safe learning environments and additional resources to increase academic achievement and engagement in school.

Nonprofit partner: organizations that partner with LEAs and participating schools to deliver vital educational supports, such as, targeted and school-wide research-based interventions in literacy, math, attendance and behavior shown to increase student achievement and are providing additional learning time to high-needs students.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) offers the following changes/additions to the definitions:

- Achievement gap
The proposed definition of Achievement gap (“the difference in the performance between each ESEA subgroup (as defined in this document) within a participating LEA or school and the statewide average performance of the LEA's or State's highest achieving subgroups in reading/language arts and mathematics as measured by the assessments required under the ESEA”) would restrict the achievement of students in low achieving subgroups, including students with disabilities, to a standard reliant on the average for the LEA or State. Given the variance across States in academic performance (such as the NAEP), this approach would not result in significant achievement gap improvement in low performing states.
NCLD recommends that the Department re-examine this definition and remove the limitations created by comparison to within LEA or within State averages.

- Personalized learning plan
Students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) should not be precluded from receiving a personalized learning plan. The development of such plans does not replace the requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). NCLD requests the Department to clarify these points in the definition.

- Response to Intervention or Multi-Tier System of Supports
NCLD recommends adding the following definition:
The terms Response to Intervention and Multi-Tier System of Support mean a comprehensive program that includes evidence based instruction, universal screening, progress monitoring, research-based interventions matched to student needs, and educational decision-making using learning rate over time and level of performance.

There should be definitions for each of the grade/developmental levels for students:

Early Childhood (Age 0-Age 8)
Elementary (Age 7-Age 10)
Middle School (Age 11-13)
High School (Age 14-17)
Post Secondary (Older than 18)

Some breakdown like this would be informative for proposals.

Given the Children’s Defense Fund’s commitment to expanding access to Full-Day K and our recommendations in earlier sections, CDF recommends that a definition of full-day kindergarten be added to the current list of definitions:
Full-day kindergarten, as contrasted with half-day kindergarten, is generally defined as a kindergarten program that meets for the same number of hours per day as the first grade program, five days per week, and follows the same school calendar as the early primary grades.

Regarding the proposed definition of principal evaluation system, there no requirement for such systems to be based on educator feedback, whereas there is such a requirement for superintendent and school board evaluation systems. As the instructional leader of the school, it is imperative that principal evaluation systems be informed by educator feedback and this requirement should be included in the definition.

Regarding the proposed definitions for superintendent and school board evaluation systems, why is permissive terminology used that the evaluation rating “should” reflect…. rather than mandatory terminology as is used in teacher and principal evaluations? This terminology should be consistent among all four categories of evaluation systems.

NAEYC would like to comment on several of the definitions.

Personalized Learning Plan Definition:
NAEYC commends the Department for focusing on personalized learning. We believe that the definition of personalized learning and its application must be expanded to encompass the use of developmentally appropriate practices for children in third grade and younger. Developmentally appropriate practice is grounded both in the research on how young children develop and learn and in what is known about effective early education. The core of developmentally appropriate practice is intentionality in making the many long-term and short-term decisions that add up to practice that promotes young children’s optimal learning and development. Developmentally appropriate practice does not mean making things easier for children. Rather, it means ensuring that goals and experiences are suited to their learning and development and challenging enough to promote their progress and interest. To make good decisions, teachers must take into consideration what they know (1) about child development and learning; (2) about each child as an individual; and (3) about the social and cultural contexts each child lives in. The guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice address decision making in five key practice areas: (1) Creating a caring community of learners; (2) Teaching to enhance development and learning; (3) Planning curriculum to achieve important goals; (4) Assessing children’s development and learning; and (5) Establishing reciprocal relationships with families. Developmental variation among children is the norm, and any one child’s progress also will vary across domains and disciplines, contexts, and time.

Recommendation: The definition of Personalized Learning Plan should be expanded to encompass the use of developmentally appropriate practices for children in third grade and younger, thus intentionally providing a basis for long- and short-term practice decisions that promote optimal learning and development.

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Student Growth Definition:

The draft definition of Student Growth for grades and subjects in which assessments are not required under ESEA section 1111(b)(3) is defined in this proposal as student results on pre tests, end of course tests, objective performance–based assessments and performance on student learning objectives, as well as student performance on English language proficiency assessments. We applaud the Department for encouraging the use of high-quality assessments of student progress beyond those defined under ESEA, as well as the inclusion of assessment approaches (e.g. instructor observations) that are more typical in the early grades, and can be employed according to the highest standards of assessment practice.

Recommendation: The application should require districts and schools working under this grant to ensure that their selection and use of child assessments for children in third grade and younger conform to the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences reports on child assessment.

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Teacher Evaluation System Definition:

The proposed definition of a Teacher Evaluation System does not distinguish between effective teaching in the early grades and teaching of older children. The definition in this proposal states that the evaluation system must use multiple valid measures in determining performance levels, including as a significant factor data on student growth (defined in the draft as for all students) and other measures of professional practice, a significant purpose of which will be to inform personnel decisions.

Many variables contribute to a teacher’s effectiveness: their preservice education and ongoing professional development, classroom resources, and the availability of services that children may need to meet challenging academic expectations. The evaluation process should be used as a way to inform, improve and plan for better teaching and a better school climate. In thinking of evaluation as part of a continuous improvement process, evaluations can be more meaningful and more focused. For example, the CLASS assessment of teacher-child interaction is part of a professional development process. The merits of value added assessment, in general, and the specific weighting of student outcome data as part of teacher accountability systems continues to be debated. The unintended consequences of using assessments of children in preschool through third grade for teacher, principal and school accountability and associated incentives can include: 1) undue pressure on children regarding test taking rather than the comprehensive and critical thinking skills which are needed for 21st century jobs; 2) teachers “teaching to the test,” which could narrow the curriculum; and 3) inaccurate reflections of children’s real abilities.

Data on student growth should not be the “significant” factor in this system for teachers in the early grades, especially kindergarten. Child outcome assessments do not capture this important element of teacher effectiveness and by determining high stakes outcomes for teachers on child outcomes alone, other critical skills for teachers will be diminished in value and use. Effective teachers know how to use the curriculum and instructional assessments to support each child’s learning and how to engage families as partners in children’s development and education. By placing such emphasis on student test scores for teachers working with children in K-3, there will be the potential for more unnecessary, burdensome testing and “test prep” and a narrowing of the curriculum to only those subjects tested under the common standards.

Kindergarten is a unique year in our education system and further complicates a K-12 Teacher Evaluation System that does not recognize the differences in the early grades and student development compared to older children and later grades. Many districts are not required to provide kindergarten. Some districts provide half day, and others provide full day (including a second-half of day for a fee) kindergarten year. Children entering kindergarten come with a wide variety of experiences prior to the kindergarten year, including no group educational experience outside of the home. Some districts partner with Head Start and other early childhood education programs in the community to ensure a continuum of learning and parent engagement while others are more disconnected from each other.

Recommendation: The definition should include a phrase that states: “For the purpose of a system evaluating teachers in third grade and earlier, child assessment data should conform with the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences regarding child and student assessment and should not be used for high-stakes personnel decisions.” Applicants should be encouraged to develop models with input from multiple stakeholders to ensure that appropriate accountability processes for teachers are developed, and to ensure clarity and transparency in the process from the outset.

I concur with the comments posted here by NAEYC (Nat'l Association for the Education of Young Children) This group represents the very best in our field in terms of knowledge and expertise.

The distinct needs of young children warrent different definitions and different practices.

True developmentally appropriate practices based on research are what need to be implemented. What is appropriate for older children is not appropriate for younger children. This is true for the day to day instruction in programs as well as for assessment tools . Our natioanl policies must reflect this better. An amended Personalized Learning Plan could be a viable vehicle for this.

Similarly a revised teacher effectiveness plan would also need to reflect the age group of the children and how that impacts a teacher's professional practices.

I would like to reinforce the positions and comments offered here by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. This group respresents the best and most current information in our field gathered by experts who understand the needs of young children in the larger public policy arena. It is imperative that policy reflects an understanding of the unique needs of this age group as compared to older elementary age children.

The true definition and implementaion of developmentally appropriate practices must be part of the vision for young children. Assessments for this age group need to be considered carefully and need to complement what we know from research about how children learn in the early years.

I concur with NAEYC's position.

I'm unclear about the definition of the school board evaluation. Since school board's are typically elected, the evaluation is in the hands of the voters. Is this definition implying a different evaluation system similiar to the type a Principal or Teacher would go through? Thanks for clarifying.

LEA definition: Not clear to me that this includes or excludes a state-wide charter (e.g., virtual charter) or network of charters operating under legally constituted charter board(s). I believe these SHOULD be included as eligible. They are public schools, with public governance structures authorized by state legislation.

LEA definition does not and should not include Charter schools. They were created on the premise that they had the magic bullet for success. Charter schools are far from servicing their fair share of students with special needs, students eligible for free lunch or students with behavior problems. Most if not all would not qualify under the current requirements.

Charter schools should not be included. They were created on the premise that they had the magic bullet for success. Charter schools are far from servicing their fair share of students with special needs, students eligible for free lunch or students with behavior problems. Most if not all would not qualify under the current requirements.

Overall, sounds like a good opportunity to push reform to the next level. I do have a concern that there is not a mandate for districts to contract with an external partner to assist them in the reform process. My organization has been actively involved in supporting PLAs through SIG grants over the last several years. We have seen some states require external partner and others have not. The schools with an external partner appear to be more successful than those who do not.

I also did not see the timeline for expending funds. I understand the funding is to start by Dec. 31, 2012 but didn't see end.

Finally, need to clarify the budget amounts - is that total amount over X years or annual amounts.

Under Participating Students - It is unclear whether ONLY persistently lowest-achieving schools, as determined by the State, will be eligible to be included in an LEA's application or consortium application.