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District limbers up for stronger Race to Top

D.C. officials are pushing hard to meet the June 1 application deadline for their second shot at the Obama administration's Race to the Top (RTTT) grant competition. A team led by Eric Lerum, chief of staff to deputy mayor for education Victor Reinoso, has been working to shore up the weaknesses that landed the District's round one application in last place among 16 finalists, with 402.6 out of a possible 500 points. Only Delaware and Tennessee made the first cut.

A maximum of $75 million is available in this round, and D.C.'s prospects are fairly bright, principally because Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said that the next group of winners will be much larger, as many as 10 to 15.

One weak spot that is likely to remain is the District's failure to secure the endorsement of the Washington Teachers' Union. President George Parker said he could not sign on to the application because of his opposition to DCPS' new IMPACT evaluation system for teachers. Under IMPACT, introduced last fall, standardized test scores will comprise 50 percent of the evaluations this year for reading and math teachers in grades 4 through 8. Those who fail to meet minimum scores could be fired. Race to the Top places huge weight on such evaluation instruments.

Officials are trying to plug other holes. One area in which the District's application fell short was in articulating a vision for STEM (science, engineering, technology and math) education. Lerum told the D.C. State Board of Education Wednesday that the District had enlisted the help of Battelle, an Ohio firm that helped the state set up its STEM Learning Network. Another problem for the District is its troubled education data warehouse effort, which has been thrown behind schedule by problems with a contractor that had to be fired last year. The first-round application conceded that the District data system's "current functionality is limited," but Lerum said a closer look shows that officials may have been "conservative" in their assessment.

The revised application is also expected to go a little easier on the overcooked rhetoric that may have rubbed program evaluators the wrong way. The original document said an RTTT grant would be "a political win" for Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and the District, ensuring "that its cutting edge human capital work can be accelerated and become a national model."

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By Bill Turque  |  May 20, 2010; 1:19 PM ET
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Next: Pink slip season for principals


"The original document said an RTTT grant would be "a political win" for Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and the District, ensuring "that its cutting edge human capital work can be accelerated and become a national model.""

Did it really????

C'est moi!

Posted by: edlharris | May 20, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

If I were the district I would tell Arne Duncan that he is not advocating true reform, and as such they are not participating in this dog and pony show.

Posted by: jlp19 | May 20, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

There's a time to say no to money. When you have to sell your soul to the devil, like RTTT or retaining Rhee - you have to flee temptations of the flesh in order to retain your sou.

Posted by: jlp19 | May 20, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Grade me on a success rate of 50% of my students being successful. When I have major behavior and attendance problems in the my class; I will work to open communication with the students parents, discuss the importance of school and keep the counselors and administration informed. When I fail to get support my the administration of my school when I have done all I can do for the child and have documented my plans for the students success and still fail..... Can I hold the administration responsible for not helping me more and causing me to lose my job? When administrators fail to do their job to help teachers in the classroom then there will be problems. I have students in my class for 90 days. They have been absent 52 days. No action has been taken. Who then is responsible? How is RTTT REALLY going to work?

Posted by: msuznavick | May 21, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse


The hell the teachers at CHEC are going through right now could really use some coverage:

Posted by: TheReflectiveEducator | May 21, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Nope, can't touch CHEC. The principal there is untouchable because she is best buddies with Michelle Rhee, and Jay Matthews thinks that she walks on water (since all students, regardless of skill level are forced to take AP classes to boost their "Challenge Index").

I would think that turnover of 50% year would tell you something, but I'm sure that folks will say that if teachers aren't willing to work hard, they shouldn't be there. I've heard plenty of other stories from there that say pretty much the same thing, but there is no way it is ever going to get covered by the Post.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | May 21, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I generally think you're right Wyrm1 - but we did manage to get Filthy Teaching featured on here back in January.

By the way - my earlier link was bad. Here's the fixed link:

Posted by: TheReflectiveEducator | May 27, 2010 1:11 AM | Report abuse

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