Friday marked another milestone in the Administration’s Race to the Top competition – the last chance to weigh-in on the Department’s proposal for a new district-level competition. Although this is uncharted territory for the Department, the proposal certainly piqued my interest: an absolute priority for personalization, emphasis on productivity, and a competitive priority for community partnerships that align the entire education continuum.
It’s a great start. And with some tweaks, could be a very compelling competition. Here are the nine improvements we encouraged the Department to consider (click here to view our full submission):
- Engage Intermediary Organizations – Clarify that districts can partner with intermediary organizations to drive continuous improvement, identify impactful practices, and align and leverage local resources to scale practices that will help the district meet identified goals.
- Ongoing Engagement of Community Stakeholders – The Department should ensure districts engage key stakeholders throughout the application AND implementation process. This will help districts expand their capacity and achieve sustainability of their reform goals.
- Inclusion of Non-Academic Indicators – As districts track progress toward the goals outlined in their vision, it is important for districts to also track non-academic indicators. Success must be defined by academic performance and improvements to culture and the social and emotional well-being of students.
- Increase Transparency of non-Teaching and Learning Expenditures – In addition to disclosure of teaching and learning expenses, the Department should encourage districts to also disclose the non-teaching and learning expenditures for a more comprehensive view of district finances. They should also demonstrate how they will use the information to maximize effectiveness of programs.
- Encourage Regional Scale and Sustainability –Districts should develop a long-term plan to scale success beyond participating schools and traditional geographic boundaries. They should have a plan for scaling the community and region.
- Professional Development for Superintendents and School Board Members – While we did not take an official position on teacher, principal, superintendent, and school board evaluation systems, we still believe any professional with an evaluation deserves aligned professional development. Since the Department wants to ensure teachers and principals get the necessary support, we encouraged them not to forget the superintendents and school board members.
- Additional Metrics for Performance Measurement – Add these metrics to the performance measurement section to ensure a more robust picture of student learning:
Number and percentage of participating students reading on grade level
Number and percentage of participating students assessed ready for kindergarten
Number and percentage of participating students who enroll in and complete some form of postsecondary education and/or training
- Drive Quality Continuous Improvement – We cannot emphasize enough that continuous improvement does not mean an annual or even biannual grant review. Districts should constantly analyze data and make informed decisions to change course when something doesn’t work and scale what does.
- Elevate the Importance of Cradle to Career Partnerships and Alignment – The Department should encourage more communities to embrace comprehensive reform by applying a sliding scale to the competitive preference priority with maximum points awarded to districts seeking funds for a cradle to career approach.
So there you have it – a manageable list informed by practice and strong on results. Now all eyes are on the Department for next steps. We wish them luck as they pull together a new program that, for better or worse, will inform policy and practice for years to come.