U.S. Department of Education
Will the teacher attendance requirements prompt teachers to work when sick? Do we really want that?
How many school dsitricts will be able to demonstrate (a) that it has a four-year track record of excellence in raising test scores and closing the achievement gap AND (b) successfully implemented one of the four turnaround models? A smaller district has almost no chance, as they are unlikely to have at least one school in the persistently-lowest performing category and one school that has a four-year track record of success. (Larger districts, with more schools, have enough variability in school performance that their chances are far better.)
Does this rule mean that districts who have not received an SIG grant are likely not eligible?
This points to a highly uneven balance of funding shifted toward larger school districts.
Do the Reform Conditions rule out K-8 school districts, given that they don't enroll high school students?
Does making the data available to parents imply that the data is available to students, or must the LEA provide data directly to students?
I fail to see any connection between the principal, superintendent, and school board evaluations and the goals of the program. Furthermore, having parents, students, and teachers involved in such evaluation is, in my opinion, naive. It will be easy for some administrators to uncover the source of poor evalutions in smaller school districts. Knowing this, some teachers in smaller schools will offer undeserved glowing commendations. This makes it far tougher for small districts to compete.
Similarly, I fail to see how the Mayor's support is important to the project goals. (I can understand community support as a reqruiment for such programs as Promise Neighborhoods, but not this competition.) The appplication appears to have an insufficiently narrow focus. If the intent of this program is to create new methods for teaching students, then the grant requirements should center directly on those requirements. Otherwise, the competition will shut out many potential applicants that could have created some outstanding solutions. For example, if approval by the teacher's union is really important to create such a system and implement it, then why is the lead applicant the only entity required to produce such an agreement? The requiremnts seem to be a hodge-podge of (micromanagement) ideas with no coherent vision.
The same applies to the transparency requirements. By what right does the ED have in telling schools that they must publish salary information? That issue is between the school, the community, and the state. Beyond that, how does such transparency impact the goals of this competition? Does the ED really think that publishing teacher salaries is going to improve individualized learning opportunities for students? (I am all for transparency, but we can settle these issues at the local level. This requirement is nothing more than meddling on part of the ED.)
Reform Conditions should reference an overall “body of evidence” for an intervention, which may include experimental and quasi-experimental studies, rigorous analysis of publicly available school-wide data, and other studies that look impartially at short- and long-term outcome data with an eye toward minimizing and understanding selection bias and other factors that could influence the data. Moreover, LEAs should have a demonstrated ability to make formative and summative assessment data available to out-of-school educational partners such as mentoring and after-school learning organizations, as well as to expanded learning time (ELT) partners. Ideally, full-time teachers, afterschool and ELT educators, and parents would all have access to basic student achievement data and the chance to integrate this data into their instructional strategies. Additionally, afterschool and ELT educators should have opportunities to contribute comments to a common on-line data system that allows the various educators in a child's life to share information on the student’s learning and comments on strategies that are working well.
Funding and grant decisions are often made late in the game with regards to district, school, and nonprofit partners fiscal calendars, and the timing interferes with effective implementation. We urge you to add language to the RTT-D application that requires districts to transparently describe the proposed timing of budgeting or sub-granting process, and the steps they will take to ensure that school and nonprofit partners will have the maximum time and support possible to implement the desired reforms in a well-planned and high-quality way.
This section should include non-profit and community based partners among the stakeholders that must be engaged in the development of the proposal. Nonprofit partners are often in a position to leverage and share lessons across school and district (and even state) lines, maximizing learning, performance, and scalable, sustainable change.
Student fitness and physical activity have been shown to have a powerful relationship to student academic performance. Obesity has been shown to have a negative correlation with academic performance. Improving student health and physical activity should be included in the areas considered under vision. Students should be prepared for college, careers, AND LIFE. Healthy workers are more productive and have better attendance. In developing positive contributing citizens knowing how to take care of their own health is extremely important. These areas should be included as areas of focus in Race to the Top funding.