Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The teacher challenge

Andy Smarick with an op ed in the Boston Globe on what MA has to do to win the next round of RTTT:

On the issue of improving struggling schools, Massachusetts scored near the top among finalists. It bested one of two eventual winners, Delaware, and nearly tied the other, Tennessee. On the issue of charter schooling, Massachusetts was outpaced by only a few states. Had the reform legislation not been passed, Massachusetts would've found itself far behind.

So how did the state still manage to place a discouraging 13th overall out of 16 finalists?

By coming in very last place in the application's most important section: improving the teaching profession.

A number of other states, following the Obama administration's guidelines, acted boldly on this front, overhauling teacher evaluation systems, toughening tenure rules, launching statewide performance pay programs, and removing chronically underperforming teachers from the classroom. In Delaware, teacher evaluations must be based on student performance and must inform compensation and promotion decisions; teachers cannot receive tenure if rated ineffective more than once. In Rhode Island, all teacher placements must be based on school need, not seniority, and districts may not allow any student to be taught by an ineffective teacher two years in a row.

On these issues, Massachusetts demurred, deciding instead to form a task force to study such matters; the grant application also proposes "statewide conversations" with stakeholders. In the few cases where the state proposed new initiatives, startlingly small portions of the state would have participated. A largely undefined pilot program to reform teacher personnel decisions would have been implemented in fewer than 1 percent of districts.

Federal reviewers subtracted points from Massachusetts in virtually every part of this section, from evaluations and compensation to teacher preparation programs and staffing needy schools. In fact, had the state merely maximized these points, it would have displaced Tennessee for the second winning spot.


The teacher challenge

Race to the Top loss gives Mass. a chance to rise to new heights

By Andy Smarick

April 4, 2010

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