Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

E-mail Bill | RSS Feed | In-depth coverage: Education Page | Follow The Post's education coverage: Twitter | Facebook

Feds poke holes in DC Race to Top bid

The District may well end up with a piece of the Obama Administration's Race to the Top action when the grant competition moves to its second round later this year. Especially if, as Education Secretary Arne Duncan indicated Monday, the next group of winners will be considerably larger -- as many to ten to 15 states. After all, $3 billion is a lot of coin to unload, and Obama has proposed adding another $1.3 billion to fund.

If D.C. prevails, it's likely to be in spite of the weaknesses in its application, as outlined in reviewer comments posted Monday afternoon after announcement of the first round winners. Tiny Delaware, not a part of the pre-announcement chatter that was dominated by states such as Florida and Louisiana, came in first with 454.6 points out of a possible 500. Second-place Tennessee tallied 444.2 points.

The District, which came in last among the 16 finalists with 402.4 points, got hurt in four areas: no union support; lack of an evolved data collection system; questions about the sustainability of its gains in test scores and the narrowing of the achievement gap, and a tone in some passages suggesting that it is more intent on making a big national splash than putting human capital systems in place that will produce great teachers and school leaders.

The District received just 22.4 out of a possible 30 points in the category called "Building strong statewide capacity" to implement reforms, chiefly because the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) did not sign off on the application. WTU president George Parker declined because he opposes the new IMPACT teacher evaluation system that requires reading and math teachers in grades 4 through 8 to have half of their appraisals weighted toward annual growth in standardized test scores. Teachers with weak overall assessments will face dismissal this summer.

An Education Department review panel said the union's refusal to sign on "creates a concern" and "may create barriers and challenges to getting teachers to make the essential instructional changes" to reach its goals.

The District earned just six out of a possible 24 points because its education data system is much less robust than those in Tennessee and Delaware. The District's fledgling effort, known as the Statewide Longitudinal Education Data Warehouse (SLED), has been plagued by problems, including the dismissal last year of its main contractor.

Despite recent positive news on NAEP math and reading scores, the panel says a closer look the data "show mixed results and continuing and sizeable achievement gaps." The District earned 21.6 out of 30 points in this area. Officials raise the question of whether the gains reflect an initial shock of reform that will fade over time, or something more permanent:

"The number of points awarded to this section is due to the concern that the quick gains may be the result of the newly imposed expectations rather than proven instructional practices that will need to be sustained over time. The District would need to analyze the achievement data and explore the connections between the data and the sustainable actions that have contributed to sudden academic gains to determine if the projected goals are fully attainable."

Finally, the District's application took a hit for its tone and approach in the section entitled "Great Teachers and Leaders." Overall, it garnered 111.8 of a possible 138 points. Reviewers took exception to the District's assertion that a Race to the Top grant would be a vindication in light of the political resistance to some of Rhee's personnel moves, and would position DC "to ensure that its cutting edge human capital work can be accelerated and become a national model for innovative human capital."

Reviewers questioned whether the District was more interested in showcasing its "speed in achieving results and to become a national model" or in committing to the "detail and attention needed to build the capacity of staff to become great teachers and leaders."

The District aced other portions of the application, including plans to turn around its lowest achieving schools and development of high quality standards and assessments.

Rhee steered away from discussing the particulars of the application Monday, and in a statement said:

"It was a great honor to be chosen as one of the RTTT finalists --only two states were selected as winners, and just advancing this far was an important validation that DC is on the right track with education reform. We're confident about our future prospects and we're eager to reengage all of our partners as we prepare for Phase 2."

Follow D.C. Schools Insider every day at washingtonpost.com/dcschools.
And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers,
please check out our new Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed.
Bookmark it!

By Bill Turque  |  March 29, 2010; 7:55 PM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: D.C. on bottom in Race to Top
Next: D.C. ed reform forum to feature Clifford Janey

Comments

Thanks, again, George Parker. The gaps show not unsurprising interim effects of a big turnaround in progress. We need to remember, getting DCPS to where it was 2.5 years ago took decades of negligence. For example, of course there was a weak, dysfunctional data system when Rhee arrived, plus a failing contractor in place. All of Rhee's improvements take time, including getting that contractor out and beginning to strengthen the teacher corps to ensure the right skills and positive disposition.

Posted by: axolotl | March 29, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

No Union Support?

Doesn't the union support the students? I'm flabbergasted- they really do hope for a school system without students.

Posted by: bbcrock | March 29, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

It sounds like the evaluation team at DOE consists of competent bureaucrats who go by the rules and aren't impressed by razzle-dazzle.

I can hardly wait to see the editorial board's response to this. I'm beyond making a prediction. They always amaze me.

Posted by: efavorite | March 29, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

@bbcrok

Did the lack of union support get DC a zero (0) for STEM initiatives? Although the District got credit for McKinley Tech which was re-opened in 2004 under Dr. Janney; and was deemed successful until many teachers and counselors were riffed last summer. Now Chancellor Rhee and Mr. Pinder can take credit for reform efforts D.C. implemented before they came to town. Typical, bbcok you bore me.

Posted by: KwameFan | March 30, 2010 1:08 AM | Report abuse

I bet mispelling your name twice, pisses you off

Posted by: KwameFan | March 30, 2010 1:10 AM | Report abuse

To All Chancellor Fans:

1. Despite recent positive news on NAEP math and reading scores, the panel says a closer look the data "show mixed results and continuing and sizeable achievement gaps."... Officials raise the question of whether the gains reflect an initial shock of reform that will fade over time, or something more permanent...

In her testimony before the City Council last Monday the Chancellor claimed that her data show improving test scores and a closing achievement gap that were clear evidence that we are moving in the right direction. Why doesn't the Education Department review panel listen?


2. Reviewers took exception to the District's assertion that a Race to the Top grant would be a vindication in light of the political resistance to some of Rhee's personnel moves, and would position DC "to ensure that its cutting edge human capital work can be accelerated and become a national model for innovative human capital."

Why doesn't the Education Department review panel grant the Chancellor the vindication she seeks by validating her cutting edge human capital work?


3. Reviewers questioned whether the District was more interested in showcasing its "speed in achieving results and to become a national model" or in committing to the "detail and attention needed to build the capacity of staff to become great teachers and leaders."

Why doesn't the Education Department review panel not recognize the Chancellor's need for speedy reform? And what is wrong with her very careful and detailed efforts to make our human capital great?

4. As the Chancellor said, " just advancing this far was an important validation that DC is on the right track with education reform. We're confident about our future prospects and we're eager to reengage all of our partners as we prepare for Phase 2."

After coming in last out of 16 finalists, the Chancellor will give the Education Department review panel another chance to champion her progressive achievements. The panel's questions and negative reaction to what they incorrectly perceive as self-promoting motives are clearly not worth considering.

Good Luck DCPS !!!

Posted by: AGAAIA | March 30, 2010 7:28 AM | Report abuse

To AGAAIA and other Chancellor fans - perhaps the answer to your questions is that the DOE was carefully assessing facts and not falling for the spin that has been so successful with the media (and that you continue, AGAAIA).

I'm not a fan of RttT, but from what I've seen so far, I am a fan of its evaluation process. It seems to involve a careful, unbiased assessment of the school systems
it's considering for its money.

Posted by: efavorite | March 30, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

efavorite:

I think you misinterpreted my sarcasm. My views are just the opposite in every sense to what I posted. Thanks for pointing out that I probably did too good a job reaching out to Chancellor Fans.

Posted by: AGAAIA | March 30, 2010 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Now, efavorite that you have seen the eval scheme and result, do you want DC to receive a grant in the next round?

Posted by: axolotl | March 30, 2010 8:22 AM | Report abuse

The achievement gap has actually grown since Rhee came into office, which is probably what the graders are concerned about.

As for the union while I generally don't agree with them, in this case I praise George Parker for not signing on. I know for a fact that the union was willing to work with DCPS on a new evaluation system and was completely shut out of the process.

While I actually like IMPACT, there are a bunch of problems with it, including
1) We were not told how we were going to be evaluated until literally 1 day before they started evaluations.
2) Several groups will have incomplete evaluations because DCPS doesn't have the ability to actually do the evaluations they put into their own evaluation system
3) Co-teachers still have no rubric, but are somehow going to be evaluated without a rubric
4) Scores are all over the place. Clearly no guidance was given to master educators and administrators as to what justified certain grades.

Finally, and most important to me (and I suspect the union) is that firing decisions for a certain groups of teachers will be based on DCPS scores, which are both a poor measure of the ability of a teacher AND don't come out until late July. As a result, teachers will not be fired until late July-early August, which is too late to find another job.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | March 30, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

AGAAIA - good job! Too good, as you say. Next time give us more of a clue that you're kidding - a disclaimer at the end perhaps. I'm not so good at taking a joke any more, after years seeing people taking the chancellor's lies seriously

axoloti - haven't read the eval myself yet, but as I do not support the RttT concept, I don't want any system to win in the next round.

Posted by: efavorite | March 30, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

I'm a Rhee fan and I think that all of the criticisms stated by the DOE are fair. Fixing our mess of a system is nose-to-the-grind work and fewer media availabilities by the Chancellor would serve her well.

Posted by: hoos3014 | March 30, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Human Capitalistic...pretty much they are saying we were playing get-ready, get-set and go!!! Race to the top pointed pretty accurately that our human resource aspects are a race to nowhere. Does one not have to look at the Hardy situation...here you are moving a successful principal to replicate his success at another school. Yet you are giving the replacement principal of the successful principal a responsibility of running two schools. But the kicker is that you have committed to a national search for a high-school principal because you are saying that your current principal base does not possess the "certain' skill set. No wonder the CSO and WTU are not buying into anything that DCPS has to offer...Kaya-sweetie stop being in la-la land. New does not mean better honey!

Hey Rhee and Company, Janey is in-town this week...I would say invite him over to the new digs at 1200 First Street and pick his brain for ideas.


Hint: Janey while you are here...start measuring for the drapes. If Gray is elected Mayor I think you will be back here in heartbeat.

Posted by: PowerandPride | March 30, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Agree that it took years of dysfunction and incompetence to get DCPS to where it was two and a half years ago.

Posted by: fredcorgi1 | March 30, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Bill:
There's an astonishing amount of rating data and qualitative documentation of the proposal evaluation process available online, more than even a team of reporters could evaluate and digest. But, your report for a losing effort from DC is more than adquate, with your selection of cogent reviewer comments
Id' like to shift the focus, though. DC's was a proposal from OSSE, not from DCPS's Chancellor Rhee. Evaluation points were assigned heavily for the the State's record. That structure couldn't be re-invented, and weak structural elements not yet replaced by Fenty could not be hidden. OSSE is just three years old, and DC is already on its second Chief State School Officer, the first having found a better environment for her initiative and insistence on accountable performance than she found in DC.
Yes, the Charter School Board and all of the charter schools signed onto the DC proposal, but the recent Annual Report for charter schools shows that the policy of the Board has only recently moved in the direction of accountability and continuous the charter-promoting Thomas Fordham Institue promulagates for the charter schools it sponsors in another State.

If DC education stakeholders believe Race to the Top (Rtt)incentive awards are worth pursuing, they had better be united in supporting the infrastructure of improvement and real accountability that --as proposal reviewers and commenters here have noted -- have remained in the sharp and dark shadow of a prominent fame-seeking DCPS Chancelor. The majority of positions at OSSE, which submits grant-proposals, are short-time appointees, and the expert knowledge base being developed still accrues primarily to contractors and political appointees.

OSSE shouldn't be judged by its ability to win Rtt blue-ribbons and small cash award incentives. But, serious deficencies signal the unlikelihood that OSSE will lead reform or be able to write convincing proposals. In a few years the charter schools will enroll the majority of DC public school children. Better to look to the public charter sub-sector's capacity for reform. Not, again, that it yet promises much more than school choice and an alternative to DCPS.

Posted by: incredulous | March 30, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Wow! OUCH!!! How many times have we heard that her data was flawed and that the NAEP scores showed wider achievement gaps? Her standard answer? "I disagree." RttT? It's more like RpfU (Rug pulled from Under)Reality check!!!!

Posted by: candycane1 | March 30, 2010 10:40 PM | Report abuse

"WTU president George Parker declined because he opposes the new IMPACT teacher evaluation system that requires reading and math teachers in grades 4 through 8 to have half of their appraisals weighted toward annual growth in standardized test scores. Teachers with weak overall assessments will face dismissal this summer."

Yeah, George Parker. You did the right thing. You didn't let a poor standard of measure (standardized tests) become the standard of whether a teacher should be retained.

For this he should be praised.

Posted by: aby1 | March 30, 2010 10:53 PM | Report abuse

ah, Aby1--so, you are proudly raising the banner of you-citizens and parents-have-no-right-to-evaluate-me-as-a-teacher-because-I-have-a-lifetime-job. Nice. Note that George, nice man tho he is, will be out of office shortly.

Posted by: axolotl | March 31, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Axototl,
So I give you an answer and your response is to go and attack efavorite.
Just like Gilda Radnor's character from SNL: Never Mind
Maybe you need more than the weekend off these blogues(sp) as you advised Phillip Marlowe last Friday.
It's spring break for goodness sake.

Posted by: edlharris | April 1, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

eddylharris: nope, u got it wrong. I give efav. a half free pass and now avoid being judgemental about her formid. attributes. But we can argue the occasional idea, eh? Am on vac. but will still enjoy the next Vince gaffe!

Posted by: axolotl | April 1, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Fire Obama and distribute the money fairly between all states.

Posted by: aby1 | April 4, 2010 1:47 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company