Posts tagged "race to the top"
December 2, 2013
With Mayor Bloomberg on his way out, there’s been a small crack in the icy relationship between the city education department and the teachers union.
The thaw is taking place over a $12 million grant that the city is eligible for to fund new ways to develop, retain and compensate top teachers. The purpose is to improve teacher retention in high-poverty schools, where turnover is most acute.
After holding out for months, the United Federation of Teachers signed off on a grant application that the Department of Education submitted just ahead of a 5 p.m. deadline today. Signatures from the teachers and principals unions were required, but the UFT had declined to offer one for months.
Over the summer, Chancellor Dennis Walcott blamed the UFT’s unwillingness to support the grant bid on union intransigence. Education officials accused the union of trying to negotiate work benefits that were unrelated to the grant.
But a lot has changed since then, most notably the election of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who takes over next month after campaigning as an anti-Bloomberg candidate. (more…)
December 12, 2012
At the same time as the State Education Department is publicly pressuring school districts to adopt new teacher evaluations by next month, it’s also quietly demanding that charter schools turn in their teachers’ ratings from last year.
Charter school advocates are urging most school leaders to ignore the demand, even though state officials have said it’s needed in order to fulfill its Race to the Top plan. The advocates say the demand would be hard to fulfill and impinges on charter schools’ autonomy.
The standoff has its roots in the state’s 2010 application for federal Race to the Top funds. In its application to the U.S. Department of Education for funding, New York State said it would require schools to rate teachers according to specific guidelines and would collect ratings for all teachers, even in charter schools.
Some charter schools committed to sharing their teacher ratings at the time in order to receive some of the state’s $700 million in winnings. But two thirds did not — and the state wants their teacher ratings too, according to a series of updated guidance memos that officials have issued over the last 18 months.
City and state charter school advocates have pushed back against the demands throughout that time.
“Both the New York City Charter School Center and the New York Charter Schools Association believe that this reporting requirement does not properly apply to non-Race to the Top charter schools,” Charter Center CEO James Merriman and NYCSA President Bill Phillips wrote in a strongly worded email to school leaders last month. They added, “Ultimately, it is up to you whether you choose to report this data.”
So far, few school leaders have made that choice. By the original submission deadline Nov. 30, just 30 of 184 charter schools in the state had handed over teacher ratings from last year. (more…)
December 11, 2012
If New York City wants to expand its use of technology to tailor instruction to students’ individual needs, it will have to do so without special federal funding.
The city was not on the list today when the U.S. Department of Education named the winners of its Race to the Top-District competition, aimed at rewarding districts that “personalize learning.”
One reason: The city Department of Education did not supply requested information about its budget.
The city had been one of 61 finalists in the competition, which netted nearly 500 applications from school districts and consortia of districts from across the country. It had asked for $40 million to expand and augment existing initiatives, including the Innovation Zone, and build innovative schools from the ground up.
Applications were scored by independent reviewers according to stringent rules set out by the U.S. Department of Education, and New York City’s application got high marks in most categories. The reviewers lauded the city’s vision, its prior record of success making major changes, and its analysis of where and why a move toward personalized learning would be useful.
But it lost points because the city did not outline a clear timeline for carrying out the plans, show how the funds would benefit all students, or demonstrate that it had gotten buy-in from community partners with which it promised to collaborate. (more…)
November 14, 2012
Pitting itself against school districts across the country, the city has asked the U.S. Department of Education for $40 million to expand and augment its existing education technology programs.
The city’s biggest commitment in its application for Race to the Top-District, which city education officials filed last week, is to add as many as 100 schools to its three-year-old “Innovation Zone.” The application also promises to build innovative schools from the ground up and train teachers on how to use technology to improve instruction.
Race to the Top-District is the latest effort by the Obama administration to entice state and local education officials to adopt its preferred policies. In the first Race to the Top grant competition, in 2010, New York State netted $700 million to overhaul teacher evaluations, add more charter schools, bulk up teacher preparation programs, and develop a statewide data system. Last year, the state fell short in its bid to win Race to the Top funds earmarked just for early childhood education. The current round — the first open to individual districts — is focused on “personalized education.”
City Department of Education officials say the Innovation Zone, which this year contains nearly 250 schools, makes the department uniquely positioned to turn federal funds into higher student achievement.
“It’s something that we’ve been doing for three years,” said David Weiner, the Department of Education deputy chancellor in charge of innovation. “We really believe that that puts us in a great place to capitalize on what we’ve learned.” (more…)
August 13, 2012
A year after the state comptroller canceled a no-bid contract for a statewide student data system, the State Education Department has announced new contracts for the delayed project.
Four companies were awarded parts of a $50 million federal grant to develop the infrastructure for an “education data portal” that would serve as a hub of information for schools and teachers. One of the subcontractors is Wireless Generation, the company that lost the original $27 million contract.
The portal is meant to allow educators to track and use student performance data and exchange information about curriculum and instructional practices across the state. It was one of several new initiatives the state vowed to carry out in its 2010 application for the federal Race to the Top funding competition, in which New York netted $700 million.
“The Education Data Portal is an integral element of the Regents reform agenda and was an essential component of New York’s Race to the Top application,” said Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr., in a statement.
The state’s Race to the Top application promised to roll out the data system in October 2012 — two months from now. By a year from now, the portal was to serve 90 percent of the state’s intended audience, according to the Race To The Top application.
That timeline suffered a significant setback last year when state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli rejected the $27 million contract that was given exclusively to Wireless Generation, the Brooklyn-based education software developer. (more…)
May 22, 2012
In the beginning, there were charter schools, data systems, and teacher evaluations. Then, there was early childhood education. And now, the Obama administration wants to reward individual school districts for tailoring their offerings to individual students.
“Personalized education” is the emphasis for the U.S. Department of Education’s third iteration of Race to the Top, a competitive grants program that launched in 2009. New York State won $700 million in the first year after legislators approved new teacher evaluation requirements and allowed more charter schools to open.
It’s an approach the city has embraced for years, providing data tools for schools to zoom in on each student’s weaknesses and creating an “Innovation Zone” that allows schools to restructure their space and time in a bid for stronger scores. The principal of Olympus Academy, an Innovation Zone school that allows students to progress at their own pace, appeared in Washington, D.C., today as part of the competition announcement.
But some of the federal government’s proposed eligibility criteria — including a requirement that school board members undergo formal evaluations — could make it tough for the city to qualify for the grants. Large cities could receive up to $25 million, or about .1 percent of the city Department of Education’s annual operating budget.
Perhaps most crucially, the city and its teachers union have spectacularly failed to adopt new teacher evaluations, despite commitments set out in the state’s first Race to the Top bid and in an application for a different federal program, School Improvement Grants. The latest competition requires that districts commit to having new evaluations in place by the 2014-2015 school year. (more…)
March 6, 2012
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said last month that the state’s progress on teacher evaluations met his requirements to keep Race to the Top funds flowing. But city officials’ handling of smaller pools of the federal funds suggests that they don’t think the city is anywhere close to meeting the same standard.
Last week, the Department of Education returned $7.5 million in federal funds that the state doled out for the city to design schools that make students college ready, the New York Post reported today. The city’s explanation: That it has not yet adopted new teacher evaluations, a string attached to the funding.
It’s a situation that our reporting predicted last fall, when the state began opening up mission-specific pools of Race to the Top funds to districts. Nearly all of the funding pools came with a requirement that the districts adopt teacher evaluations that comply with the state’s 2010 evaluation law.
At the time, the state was requiring districts to commit to having new evaluations in place for this school year, so the city applied for funding only for 33 schools where it had reached a partial evaluations agreement with the teachers union. Now, even though the city and union have publicly announced a deal on the issue that derailed that agreement, the city is sitting out of funding streams that don’t require new evaluations until next year. (more…)
January 10, 2012
The Obama administration is warning New York State that it could lose hundreds of millions of federal dollars if it doesn’t stick to its Race to the Top promises.
The stern warning comes in conjunction with a set of U.S. Department of Education progress reports summarizing implementation successes and setbacks in each of the states that won federal Race to the Top funds in 2010. Eleven states and Washington, D.C., shared a $4.3 billion pot of prize money.
Department officials said New York was doing better than Hawaii, which last month was deemed as being at “high risk” of losing its Race to the Top funding. But they said the state was falling behind after making progress in Race to the Top’s first year.
“New York has a chance to be a national leader or a laggard and we are only interested in supporting real courage and bold leadership,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. ”Backtracking on reform commitments could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars for improving New York schools.” (more…)
January 6, 2012
A historic look inside the nation’s classrooms, including some in New York City, painted a bleak picture, according to a report released by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today.
The second installment of the foundation’s ambitious Measures of Effective Teaching study, the report focuses on the picture of teaching yielded by five different classroom observation tools. It also scrutinizes those tools themselves, concluding that they are valuable as a way to help teachers improve but only useful as evaluation tools when combined with measures of student learning known as value-added scores.
The conclusion is a strong endorsement of the Obama administration’s approach to improving teaching by implementing new evaluations of teachers that draw on both observations and value-added measures. New York State took this approach to overhauling its evaluation system when it applied for federal Race to the Top funding.
Among the group of five observation tools the foundation studied is the rubric now being piloted in New York City classrooms as part of stalled efforts to implement the changes to teacher evaluation, Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Effective Teaching.
Through all five lenses, instruction looked mediocre in an overwhelming majority of more than 1,000 classrooms studied, the report concludes. There were some bright spots. Many teachers were scored relatively well for the aspect of teaching known as “classroom management” — keeping students well-behaved, making sure they are engaged.
But teachers often fell short when it came to other elements of teaching, such as facilitating discussions, speaking precisely about concepts, and carefully modeling skills that students need to master. These higher-order skill sets, the report notes, are crucial in order for students to meet the raised standards outlined in the Common Core. (more…)
January 3, 2012
After the collapse of teacher evaluation negotiations in New York City and across the state, education reform groups are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to install a “shot clock” on future talks.
When the clock expires, a teacher evaluation system devised by the State Education Department would go into effect, according to the plan outlined in a letter signed by 13 reform organizations from across the state and country. The groups — which include Democrats for Education Reform and and StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee’s new lobbying outfit — argue both that more stringent evaluations are needed and that the state cannot afford to leave funding on the table during tough budget times.
The state’s teacher evaluation law, passed in 2010in order to secure Race to the Top funding, requires districts to adopt tougher evaluations when they renegotiate teachers contracts. But if they want to draw on several pools of federal funds, they have to finalize the new evaluations sooner. Dec. 31 was the deadline for one set of funds, School Improvement Grants. Another deadline, for Race to the Top funds, is coming on June 30.
Now the reform groups want the state to set another deadline — Aug. 31 — and they want it to apply to all districts, not just ones seeking federal funding. The groups are suggesting to Cuomo that districts that haven’t negotiated a plan by then would have to adopt a “default” plan and put it in place by the following year. (more…)