Race to the Top District Competition Draft

Public Comment Section for Race to the Top District Executive Summary Now Closed

Thank you to everyone who has submitted opinions, ideas, suggestions, and comments on this dedicated Web site pertaining to the draft executive summary of the draft requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions for the Race to the Top District (RTT-D) competition.

We are no longer accepting input on our Web site. Later this summer, we will publish the Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) for the RTT-D Program in the Federal Register.

Please check our RTT-D Program page for updates.

Thank you


Thank you for your interest in the Race to the Top – District (RTT-D) Program. Like the Race to the Top State program, the Race to the Top – District Program is designed to encourage unprecedented innovation and bold comprehensive reform in elementary and secondary education.

In order to run a rigorous competition and obligate funds to grantees before the December 31, 2012 statutory deadline, the Department of Education (Department) will waive rulemaking for this new program, pursuant to its authority in the General Education Provisions Act.

However, because the Department is very interested in your input, we are posting this draft executive summary of the draft requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions for the Race to the Top District competition on this Web site. We encourage all interested parties to submit opinions, ideas, suggestions, and comments pertaining to the Race to the Top District program. This document will be posted for public input until 5:00 PM EDT on Friday, June 8, 2012, at which time the input section will be closed and we will begin considering input received as we develop final requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions. Though the Department will not respond to comments, the Department will read and consider all comments in finalizing the Race to the Top District competition design. Later this summer we will publish a notice of final requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions in the Federal Register along with a notice inviting applications.

The Race to the Top District competition will build on the lessons learned from the State-level competitions and support bold, locally directed improvements in teaching and learning that will directly improve student achievement and teacher effectiveness. More specifically, Race to the Top District will reward those LEAs that have the leadership and vision to implement the strategies, structures and systems of support to move beyond one-size–fits-all models of schooling, which have struggled to produce excellence and equity for all children, to personalized, student-focused approaches to teaching and learning that will use collaborative, data-based strategies and 21st century tools to deliver instruction and supports tailored to the needs and goals of each student, with the goal of enabling all students to graduate college- and career-ready.

Successful LEAs will provide the information, tools, and supports that enable teachers to truly differentiate instruction and meet the needs of each child. These LEAs will have the policy and systems infrastructure, capacity, and culture to enable teachers, teacher teams and school leaders to continuously focus on improving individual student achievement. They will organize around the goal of each child demonstrating content and skills mastery and credentialing required for college and career and will allow students significantly more freedom to study and advance at their own pace - both in and out of school. As importantly, they will create opportunities for students to identify and pursue areas of personal passion-- all of this occurring in the context of ensuring that each student demonstrates mastery in critical areas identified in college- and career ready standards. LEAs successfully implementing this approach to teaching and learning will lay the modern blueprint for raising student achievement, decreasing the achievement gap across student groups, and increasing the rates at which students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers

The Department is posting this document on a moderated site, which means that all posts will be reviewed before they are posted. We intend to post all responsive submission on a timely basis. The Department reserves the right to withhold comments that are: unrelated to this request, inconsistent with the Department's Web site policies, advertisements or endorsements and/or otherwise inappropriate. Additionally, to protect your privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, or email addresses in the body of your comments. For more information, please be sure to read the "comments policy."

Please understand that posts must be related to the Race to the Top District competition and program, and should be as specific as possible. We ask that you limit your post to 2,000 words. All opinions, ideas, suggestions, and comments are considered informal input and, again, the Department will not respond to any posts. If you include a link to additional information in your post, we urge you to ensure that the linked information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. We look forward to receiving your ideas and suggestions. However, the input you provide in your post may or may not be reflected in the final Race to the Top District requirements, priorities, selection criteria, or definitions or other policies that are announced in the Race to the Top District notice inviting applications.

Comments

I am wondering if a provision can be made for an ESA (educational service agency) to work with a collaborative of LEAs sharing common needs and a common vision for an outcome. In other US-ED grants (i3, etc.) ESAs have been considered LEAs for grant purposes. Having districts work as collaboratives, when circumstances are appropriate, make these dollars much more productive. College and Career Readiness is, more often than not, an issue to tackle regionally, with K-12 education partnering with both institutions of higher education and regional workforce development and business and industry partners.

Hmm is anyone else having problems with the images on this blog loading? I'm trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it's the blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

This program encourages districts to lie about the number of students who really need food. Our district sent out a flier to every child's family asking them to come eat all summer in the free lunch program. This has nothing to do with need. It has everything to do with appearing poor so that we can get more money from the federal government.

I am opposed to such intrusions on self reliance.

Just a question - how does the eligibility guideline work when you're dealing with a state like HI where there is only one statewide school district (and that district received RTTT funding in the state competition)?

I hope someone sues the Department of Ed. The first RTTT bypassed Congress. District RTTT bypasses state governments. You want personalized learning environments? How about funding small class sizes instead of online education? You think schools have the capacity to create an individual lesson plan for every student? They can't even complete the ones for special education students. This competition is more like a "race to the bottom of a heaping pile of pointless paperwork."

Successful LEAs will provide the information, tools, and supports that enable teachers to truly differentiate instruction and meet the needs of each child. These LEAs will have the policy and systems infrastructure, capacity, and culture to enable teachers, teacher teams and school leaders to continuously focus on improving individual student achievement. They will organize around the goal of each child demonstrating content and skills mastery and credentialing required for college and career and will allow students significantly more freedom to study and advance at their own pace - both in and out of school. As importantly, they will create opportunities for students to identify and pursue areas of personal passion-- all of this occurring in the context of ensuring that each student demonstrates mastery in critical areas identified in college- and career ready standards. LEAs successfully implementing this approach to teaching and learning will lay the modern blueprint for raising student achievement, decreasing the achievement gap across student groups, and increasing the rates at which students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers

Hmmm? I particularly like this part meaning, my child has a passion for sports broadcasting, so this means, the school will have to show and effort in helping him with Language Arts and addressing issues of Public Speaking with his "speech delay." Right????

Sincerely,

Lea Beasmore

Why is education a race? Why are schools competing for funds? Public education is not about winners and losers. It is about working together and providing a service. Everyone needs to take a very close look at what is driving RTTT.

SC refused the RTTT funds and for good reason. Now, the USDOE wants to undermine our state leadership and sneak the deal-with-the-devil money to individual school districts? Arne Duncan publicly promised this opportunity to our district superintendent as a way around our state leadership. What a disgrace.

I'm going to take part in this in any way I can especially for the children who are on IEP's "Individual Education Plans." Thank you for sending. I think all Principals from around the United States needs to be sent this information if not already and instructed regarding change and better ways for our students to learn. Primarily, I just want to help so please advise if you would like someone who is willing to work hard to make change for our students. One thing I want to make clear, the show, "Stupid in America," hosted by John Stossel helped shed light and like the show represented, I too do not believe Teacher's Unions for our Public Schools have helped in the fact of our student's education. It is time to make change for our children on the IEP in the Public Schools. It is time to hold teacher's accountable as they hold the parent's accountable. I am a parent who regards education to its highest value having had both children on the Academic Team and Future Problem Solvers team. We work hard in our school and I believe it is time for others to work hard as well.

Sincerely,

Lea Beasmore

Good direction but falls short in the organization of tools and resources to support learning. Regardless of the environments, the skills of teachers or the focus on data and results, some kids won't be ready to learn when they walk in the building for a variety of reasons. The sections you provide here that focus on the tools, resources and partnerships to help those students are not organized nearly as well as the rest of this project.

To improve this shortfall, please ask for data and results (similar to those for student academic outcomes) for the organization and delivery of evidence and research-based approaches to supporting students to engage them and help them be ready to take advantage of the curriculum. Such tools and resouces require an infrastructure similar to that described here. Actually, the focus should be on academic achievement with supports for learning built into the same delivery system- not either/or.

"School systems are not responsible for meeting every need of their students. But when the need directly affects learning, the school must meet the challenge." Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, 1989 - and still true today.

I agree that poor school districts need a boost. Is this the best way to go about it?
Many studies today suggest that teachers are UNDER educated and don't know how to teach the basics -primarily reading.
They don't know phonics, morphology, sentence structure, etc....
They leave college knowing how to teach, NOT what to teach.
Teachers leave college thinking they have learned what they need to know to teach, but it's not what are young brains need,
especially kids with learning challenges.
Universities expect school districts to teach teachers what they need to know to teacher.

I would like to see teacher requirements more stringent. Any teacher should have explicit and rigerous
training in reading and spelling to become a teacher, particuarly if you are to be an elementary teacher.

Our government would do well to raise university standards for teachers and then the trickle down effect would take place.
Think Finland. They've got a great model. The US governement should look into replicating that model to some extend.
They are doing something right.

RAISE THE TEACHING STANDARDS. STARTING AT THE UNIVERSITY LEVEL. MAKE TEACHERS SMARTER. THE KIDS WILL FOLLOW....

Sam Ames

I think this is an excellent plan to demand good teaching on the university level and then filter down into the districts. Pulling "warm bodies" off the grid and thinking they can teach without appropriate training is a travesty. It is an injustice to the students and to the "warm body" that agrees to become certified because they can't find a job anywhere else. After 20 years of teaching, I think it is so sad that any person with a degree of any form can walk in a classroom to teach and then receive monies to pay for their masters degree while certified teachers with a bachelor's degree can't afford to go back to school or take time off to go due to fear of losing their job position. I would never want a "warm body" who decided he/she couldn't get a job anywhere else to do surgery or doctor on my child in any way. The public would be appalled if doctors were allowed to do what the government has allowed in education. The buck stops here. It is truly time to CREATE the best teachers!

The Race To The Top (RTT) program is a great opportunity for school districts to improve student learning. However, once the money is received by the schools, then how will the goverment know whether or not that the teachers are receiving adequate support and training to meet the program's criteria. Many schools only offer once a week/month staff development which consist of lectures and/or powerpoint presentation instead of collaborative teams presenting hands-on teaching and learning presentations.

There is so much money being alocated for education, but there are so many failing schools, teachers are not receiving salary increases, and they are being displaced from their jobs. The education field is no longer what it use to be in the past because we are loosing great teachers who care about student achievement and who are committed to making a difference based upon their years of experience in the classroom.

I believe that education reform should be decided based upon teachers input because they have a much greater knowledge about students abilities, level of learning and the type of instruction/curriculum that should be provided for students to be successful. I do hope that the RTT program will be successful and that there will be some type of accountability by the school districts to provide proof about teachers training for the program and not just based upon student data only.

Thank you.

I have a concern with the 40% poverty rate requirement. Many rural districts may be disqualified because they can't meet that threshold. Could you also add an option to use number of first generation college goers or % of students who need remediation courses for college entrance. That would help encourage rurals and others qualify when poverty isn't their primary issue but lack of college readiness is a big issue.

Run. Run fast and don't look back. Having been a part of this process in a state (DE) that "won" the first time around, just say "no", it is not worth it. I know times are tough and money is tight in education, but the chains attached to RTTT makes this program not worth it.

Will LEAs be considered if they do not have any persistently low performing schools?

On page 5 of the Executive Summary, item B1 addresses the 'track record of success for the past 4 years'. My concern/question is if this will keep a District from being considered for an award through this program.
As a Florida district, we have seen a 30% decrease in operating revenue in the past 4 years, and a 17% increase in our poverty level. While our standardized scores prior to that time were steadily rising, we've struggled to move forward as we've had to continue cutting programs and staff, and our families have faced significant economic challenges. Yet, in spite of these challenges, our LEA remains a leader in many areas essential to components of educational reform. We are a participating RTTT district, and are implementing all the components of our State plan. Our collaboration with our unions is a nationally recognized model. Our Advanced Placement scores are in the top 5 in the State and near the top nationally. The Leader in Me program in our schools has resulted in 2 of our schools receiving Lighthouse recognition from FranklinCovey - 2 of 26 Lighthouse schools in the world. This leadership program has positive impact on student learning, discipline, attendance and other indicators of student achievement.
We have much to offer, and much that we envision to move our students forward. Please do not limit the opportunity to participate for us, or many other districts who may have faced similar statistical challenges during the Recession.

I see the flipped class as a perfect fit to this grant. I would encourage projects that utilize the flipped class to be considered as this grant moves forward.

Once again, it appears that the funding for RTT will be targeted to only a handful of States, and this time, Districts. If this is a truly a race as the name suggests, then one would expect that each and every State and each and every student would be given a level playing field in which to compete for the funds available. (And by the way...about the title of the program...doesn't a race have one winner and a lot of non-winners? We go from No Child Left Behind to One winner and all the rest non-winners.)
I strongly disagree with spending Federal tax revenue on only some States (as was the case with last year's awards) and now on some districts (2500+ students). I can't believe that the general public from States which were not recipients of awarded funds last year have not let their legislators know their viewpoints.
D. Haggard

Excellent thoughts!

Suggest being more specific about "21st century tools." Perhaps you could use "appropriate current technologies."

Be specific about the tools that "successful LEAs" must employ, such as "for learning, assessment, and data analysis."

Information about consortia of schools should include option (or requirement) for a lead agency that may be one of the schools or districts, a college or university, or special education collaborative/regional education center.

A project of this magnitude should be required to have a full time director/manager to oversee the activities and expenditure of funds.

The priority preference around cradle-to-career results is excellent. Utilizing such an approach moves a community to look at the issue as a coordinated team, with each organization represented in the team with a role to play. And the burden does not fall solely on the schools or other public institutions - non-profits, colleges and universities, churches and other faith-based organizations, parents and community members, philanthropic organizations and even business and industry have a role and can see where they can fit in. Having 10 or fewer measures gives these groups a place to concentrate their efforts, and continuously measuring progress keeps the groups engaged. Thank you for offering this language.

As a public policy research group that has been at the forefront of education improvement in Minnesota, we heartily endorse the proposed competitive preference priority for "Cradle-to-Career Results, Resource Alignment, and Integrated Services. We have studied the problem of the achievement gap extensively and long ago concluded that the smartest possible approach involves cradle-to-career strategies, comprehensive investment in the whole child in and out of school, and total community engagement and involvement in this indispensable public investment. Our organization is very involved with cefforts modeled on the Cincinnati Strive Partnership, both here in the Twin Cities and in Grand Rapids and St. Cloud, Minnesota. We have done extensive research showing how this strategy will pay off

Instead of a district wide effort, what about emphasizing individual schools, given district approval, seek funding to demonstrate their unique and creative efforts to address the inequality in education and promote the success of their students? Most districts serve neighborhoods of varied economic and social supports. A district wide effort blurs the realities of the most difficult and under-served communities and specific neighborhoods and schools. A focus on a challenged school with higher proportion of families in poverty and with historically, poor educational outcomes would be more ideal to demonstrate unique, creative and successful educational change to its school structure, promotion of educational success and improvement in preparing children or youth for greater achievement and direction for college. Its essential that elementary and secondary schools are involved and many district efforts often are one or the other. As long as the individual school has a high number of children and or youth whose families reflect the national measure for poverty, a school would be more apt to be able to initiate change quicker and more attuned to its specific population, whether due to the geographic, ethnic, or socio-economic neighborhood.

By focusing and supporting a school to demonstrate change, it would free up schools often burdened by indecision or district wide politics to make the essential changes to structure for success. By allowing individual schools to pilot change, success would likely reflect the genuine motivation, creativity and empowerment of a local neighborhood community, its school teachers and staff, and hopefully, the investment of the local business, political, and social service communities.

District wide efforts tend to become diluted versions of a good intention while an individual school committed to change can more readily implement and measure the outcomes of its invested efforts. If the goal of this funding is to promote creative and responsive change to improve educational outcomes and success of students, choose an approach that is more likely to reflect that energy of parents, staff, teachers, and local community instead of a larger system unable to respond as quickly or implement as successfully across the whole district.

Ken, I think you may have a point here. I'd be interested to know if you are a principle. As a school board member attempting to move a district in the direction of reform, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that moving administrators, teachers, and even other board members out of the status quo is not easy. And then there is the union--opposed to anything that threatens their customary prerogatives. I am fast coming to the conclusion that the most viable route to change is identifying those teachers and hopefully principles who are interested in changing methods and working with them, initially, in pilot programs. But in any of these efforts, the cooperation, to say nothing of the enthusiasm of the superintendent and his assistants, still is critical. I'm having a hard time imagining how a principle of an individual school could undertake this. Recalcitrant teachers, backed by the union, would simply dig in their heels.

I agree!

I wholeheartedly agree with Ken. If a school were given the opportunity to compete in this competition, the results would be more detailed and tailored to suit students' needs. Individual schools have less politics to sort.

"Successful LEAs will provide the information, tools, and supports that enable teachers to truly differentiate instruction and meet the needs of each child." So information that supports non-teaching school-based professionals such as ASHA's 54,000 speech-language pathologists and audiologists will not help an LEA win this competition?

If districts apply as a group, do we have to subscribe to the same instructional programs or services? Will each district be given options that may work well specifically for its students and stakeholders?