Monday, March 29, 2010

Race to the Top - We Have Some "Winners"

From the Washington Post:

Delaware and Tennessee won bragging rights Monday as the nation's top education innovators, besting D.C. and 13 other finalists to claim a share of the $4 billion in President Obama's unprecedented school reform fund.

The awards are worth as much as $107M and $502M, respectively. The contest gave credit to districts with support from unions and school boards.

Georgia came in third and Florida fell just short. There is still $3B in the fund for next rounds.

Clearly Duncan isn't looking to spread the wealth with only two winners.

What is being said about this?

"It's totally remarkable," said Cynthia Brown, an analyst at the Center for American Progress. "We've never seen this major kind of policy change in so many different states, all in a constrained time frame. They're taking actions that are usually debated over an extended period, often for multiple years."

Other analysts call the impact limited.

"The truth is, a handful of states made important changes to their laws," said Andy Smarick of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. "A lot of states did nothing at all, and a good number did minor things to their laws."

Uh oh. Delaware's bid, which included support from the teachers unions, said they would send a corp of (wait for it) "data coaches" into schools to track student performance and target lessons.

Tennessee will also rely on data and teacher performance and the state is requiring at least half of a teacher evaluation to be based on student achievement data.

34 comments:

owlhouse said...

O/T, but too funny to bury on Friday's open thread post. From our friends at The Onion:

"These teachers are dealing with upwards of 40 students in their classrooms at a time, so obviously they know a lot more about children than someone like me, who only has one son and doesn't know where he is half the time anyway."

Trish Millines Dziko said...

Melissa, it sounds like you were mocking the use of coaches when you said "Uh oh. Delaware's bid, which included support from the teachers unions, said they would send a corp of (wait for it) "data coaches" into schools to track student performance and target lessons. "

I hope that's not the case. If so, I'd be interested in knowing why.

On another note, I think a congrats to Texas and Delaware are in order. I'm also glad Duncan didn't spread money around just for the sake of spreading it. It sets the bar high. Finally, I'm glad to see the teachers' unions were for the most part behind both state proposals too.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Trish, I was mocking the coaches simply because our district likes to use coaches (academic) and there are a lot of them. We have seen no real data to support 100+ coaches in our district and the district has been a little sketchy in where the funding has come from for them.

Every dollar counts now and the district needs to account for its reasoning in directing dollars to coaches. I'm not against academic/data coaches per se.

Good for Delaware and Tennessee (not Texas, unless you were congratulating them for refusing to apply at all). And it's good that the teachers' unions are being supportive.

I still believe that student assessments should be part of a number of tools to assess teachers but I do not believe it should be 51% of a teacher's score. Unless value-added data is thrown in, I have to wonder about assessing someone's professional abilities based on one day out of the entire year.

Dorothy said...

Tennessee's the pioneer of value added. They've been tracking value added data for a long time, at least a decade, if I remember correctly.

Dorothy said...

And year after year, Tennessee's data shows that gifted kids get the shaft, in that they make less than a year's progress. I've seen various reports that attribute this to the need to spend all the dollars to help the low achievers. I don't know more about TN and their education. I would love to know if the value-added data helped special ed kids, for instance, or other groups that are historically not well served in school.

But if they are finally going to base teacher performance on value added, that could be a boon to gifted kids. The teachers with seniority who have nice easy high performing kids will either have to actually teach them something or move on.

Seattle-Ed2010 said...

Sorry, but I can't join the bandwagon of cheers for Delaware and Tennessee contorting its laws and schools to meet the dubious "Race to the Top" demands, the two key components of which are seriously flawed: privately run charter schools and "performance pay."

What's so laudable about states succumbing to federal extortion?

As I wrote to our state legislators recently:

I believe that the Obama administration's mandates for "education reform" are heavy- handed, at times downright draconian, and show a complete disregard for local autonomy and disrespect for the profession of teaching. The recent spate of mass firings of teachers and sacrificing of principals in Marysville and Rhode Island and now Tacoma is unconscionable and alarming. Surely you agree.

Do you really want to be a party to that? Unfortunately, that is where this current form of "education reform" is leading. I urge you to stand up and say "No! Washington does not need this kind of destructive 'reform.'"

This brand of "education reform" also puts a heavy emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing, which I believe is of limited use. Here in Seattle, for example, the district is making children as young as 5 take a computerized test (MAP) three times a year -- kids who may not yet know how to read, hold a mouse, and should not be subject to such stress so soon.

Studies by esteemed universities, Stanford and Vanderbilt, show that two key components of Education Secretary Duncan's "Race to the Top" frenzy are seriously flawed and do not amount to positive change. The CREDO report out of Stanford showed that charters perform no better -- in fact, most perform worse -- than regular public schools.

A recent report by the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University, showed that "merit pay" does not work. It does NOT improve student achievement. Even the Gates Foundation's latest survey of 40,000 teachers supports this fact.

Please also see: "The Pillars of Education Reform Are Toppling" (http://seattle-ed.blogspot.com/2010/01/pillars-of-education-reform-are.html)

Also, do you realize how little money a RTT grant amounts to per child? As little as $85 a child. Why should our state be strong-armed into changing its laws and adopting questionable "reforms" just for a one-time cash infusion that really amounts to a mere pittance?

For these reasons, I oppose legislation that is geared toward helping our state achieve dubious and damaging "Race to the Top" goals.

Therefore, I urge you to OPPOSE this effort to win a "Race to the Top" grant: Senate Bill 6696.

This bill will NOT improve our schools and NOT lead to better outcomes for kids.

We already have innovative schools and programs in Washington state.

Let us retain our local autonomy and replicate what we know works for us, and not capitulate to demands from the federal government that we embrace two extremely flawed "solutions" -- privately run charters and "merit pay" tied to high-stakes standardized testing.

Washington can do better.

For more information, please visit: Seattle Education 2010: http://www.seattle-ed.blogspot.com/, an archive of information gathered by concerned Seattle parents.


Lastly, I agree with Melissa that our district already has more than enough "coaches" -- 110 in fact, and each paid $100,000. That is a gross misallocation of precious resources. We need more teachers in the classrooms, working with the children and smaller class sizes. Not more "data coaches."

--sp.

wseadawg said...

I'll go on record mocking the entire process. It has not produced any significant improvements in Chicago or elsewhere, despite its tremendous costs and disruptions.

With data coaches teaching our teachers how to read and interpret data scores, they will now be further distracted from teaching broader and deeper subject matter, and instead begin the rapid creep toward narrowed curricula and teaching to the standardized tests.

Some may really believe this is a good thing. I think it's a tremendous waste of time, money, and resources. We already have an efficient data collection system in our schools that provide instant feedback and interventions: They're called teachers, and I challenge any data system to outdo what our teachers do everyday.

Then again, if anyone has proof that this myopic focus on technology as the magic-bullet, cure-all has actually produced significant results anywhere in the U.S., I'm dying to hear about it.

Trish Millines Dziko said...

I think it's perfectly fine to say that Seattle doesn't need "data coaches" or any other form of coaches. I just think it's odd that you would indicate through mockery that data coaches don't work period. It may (and apparently has for years according to Dorothy) work just fine in Tennessee.

That said, you may have national data that shows "data coaches" consistently don't work. If that's the case, then make that case instead.

Dorothy said...

I didn't say anything about data coaches. I don't even have a clue what their job description would be and therefore have no opinion of their effectiveness.
I just said that TN has been at the forefront of collecting and analyzing value added data from their standardized tests.

Delaware was listed as using data coaches. Tennessee was listed as using assessments as 51% of teacher performance. Let's keep the discussions clear on the facts please.

Trish Millines Dziko said...

Sorry about that Dorothy. No harm intended :-).

Dorothy said...

If anything, I would probably join in with the mocking of coaches in general. I just don't get it. The most valuable thing for me as a new teacher was professional mentoring. Because I taught at a small private school, I had wonderful but informal mentoring from the other teachers (and small class sizes, but too many preps and not enough salary.)

My dream reform would be to pair up experienced teachers with new ones to dual teach for two years. The new one would learn much about teaching and kids so much faster than on their own. The wiser one could benefit from the younger one's energy. Kids would also benefit from having fewer subs, more consistency, when one or the other is sick of takes personal leave. sigh.

blumhagn said...

On the coach issue, I have been told that about 75 of the coaches are grant-funded, and so are not coming out of the funds available for classroom teachers. I believe that the remaining coaches were/are going to be laid off as part of the HQ RIF.

Eric

seattle citizen said...

The problem with "data coaches" (those that ostensibly direct teachers in gathering "data," is that they represent just the tip of the "data-driven" iceberg as far as national wholesale reform of public education goes. Behind them are an enormous (and lucrative) machine, grearing up its many cogs to turn education and learning into bits and bytes.

This may well suit the corporations that are implementing this "data-mining" culture (a euphamism, it seems, for generalizing quantitative things about learning that is, for the most part, qualitative), but it doesn't suit children.

Tehy're not little packets. There IS no prototypical "white 12 year old, nor a "black (African or American, doesn't say which) eight year old. There are no "Asian-Africans," because they're just kids, a glorious smorgasborg of influence, culture, poveryt, wealth, gender variety...

These classifications and datafications are killing education. As wseadwag says, it's becoming teachers "further distracted from teaching broader and deeper subject matter, and instead begin[ing] the rapid creep toward narrowed curricula and teaching to the standardized tests.

This serves no one, least of all kids.

Bird said...

On the coach issue, I have been told that about 75 of the coaches are grant-funded, and so are not coming out of the funds available for classroom teachers.

Any idea what grant?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Trish, it's an inside joke here at the blog. We have extensively discussed the coaches in OUR district and how the district seems to be less than clear on their purpose and judging their outcomes.

I don't have anything against data coaches. Again, anyone ever heard of their use before? I'd like to know more of what they would do and how and how much it costs before I pass judgment. I'd still like to know that about our own SPS coaches. What happens when the grants run out? Is this the best use of grant money? I understand now with budget cuts that coaches will coach teams of teachers rather than one on one.

seattle citizen said...

Melissa,

I wrote a couple of comments ago that DATA coaches seem to be one of the manifestations of the reform effort here in the district. That said, except for that movement towards "data 24/7," I'm not against coaches, per se.

You ask about coaches taking on teams of teachers instead of just one-on-one. Frankly, I think we know so little about what coaches, generally, do that it's hard to speculate as to what you heard abot losing one-on-one coaches. I've heard that the district is down to just five Star Mentors, teaches that teach the teachers through mentorship (yea, Star!) so maybe that's what you are referring to.

Maybe they had greater need of people to do power points on data, conveniently massaged, so they had to pull some out of mentoring.

A shame, if this is the case.

I think coaches could be useful, helping teachers understand new curricula, advising, observing...certainly the Star program seems worthwhile. But data manipulation? Not so much. Data manipulation to "determine merit" or "determine quality" of staff? When we see the same review of admin and the board, maybe staff will bite. I doubt it. Together with the recent spate of "insult the educator" surveys, I think staff would be pretty data-shy about now.

Dorothy said...

Here's one example of how Seattle misuses the coaches.

I recently read a book (and have linked to it from here before) that explains how Japanese Math curriculum is constructed. The teachers themselves work together to carefully create lessons. They have professional time to do this and are treated as professionals in that they are the ones who work together to research and develop the lesson. A team will spend months on a single lesson. They are experts at understanding their grade level kids so combined are experts at anticipating all sorts of mistake the kids will make so can prepare for them. (Remember that NYT article Build a Better Teacher, it pointed out the need for this level of understanding.)

Then, one of the teachers will teach it and the others will observe and critique. Because of the equal stature among the group, the critiques are not taken as a personal attack but a meaningful learning experience. The problems with the outcome are brought back to the group for refinement. Completed lesson plans are then stored in the school for all to use. The best ones filter up to regional or national level for dissemination.

So yes, Japan has "scripted" lessons, but completely teacher developed. This is an ongoing activity and teachers in each school work on improving a few lessons each year.

I heard that recently Seattle opted to do something similar, but it was coaches who developed the lessons and then presented them as a guest teacher while groups of teachers watched. Now how does that match Japan? How does that keep the teachers as professionals and how does that actually work toward more effective teaching? More unnecessary top-down interventions from overpaid coaches. (One teacher I spoke with called this all a waste of time, worse than a waste of time because of all the time this teacher was out of the classroom and the kids missed out by having subs.)

Trish, if you have examples of how your school uses coaches effectively, then please share. We SPS parents have very little positive experiences with them ourselves. Would be grand to see how they can be implemented well.

wseadawg said...

The issue for me is this: Will the data collection and interpretation, after data coaches presumably teach teachers how to use the software and read the data, radically or substantially help our teachers do their job of teaching, or will the teachers, like so many of us, become slaves to the software in order to replicate within the electronic networking atmosphere what is currently done manually? In the grand scheme, computerization helps things move faster, and I don't deny that there are possible time savings and earlier opportunities to correct and assist children. Fine.

But what radical or substantial improvement do we expect to see here? Are the data coaches merely teaching teachers how to use software and read results? Or are they teaching our teachers how to incorporate that data into how and what they already teach in order to make them do their jobs better? I think the key test is whether the teachers embrace these changes or not. Unlike so many people, it seems, I really like and trust my kids teachers, including the ones I didn't necessarily hit it off with on a personal level. I've never had any doubt they wanted and tried their best to help my kids. So is the tremendous focus on data, data, and more data, going to help our teachers, hinder them, or not make a whit of a difference?

I would really like to see actual examples, instead of all the advertising in Education Week, eSchool News, etc. that promises the world, like we've seen for decades now from the software industry. Show me the outcomes, and maybe I'll show you the money. Unless or until that happens, it's a gamble and a potential black hole, pure and simple.

Sheesh! Look at the VAX for Pete's sake. They've been dragging that dead horse of an excuse up and down the halls of JSCEE for how many years now?

Sorry, but I feel justifiably skeptical until somebody shows me some hard proof. Otherwise, nobody can assure me we aren't wasting a ton of money at a time when we desperately need it in the classrooms.

hschinske said...

The district has a lot of unpaid data coaches (Meg Diaz being current Top of the Pops) whom they're not listening to very well. All the best data crunching I've seen has happened because parent volunteers have stepped up and done it. Then ... *crickets*

Helen Schinske

Trish Millines Dziko said...

To answer Dorothy's question on how TAF Academy uses coaches...

We're almost done with year 2 and we're still figuring some things out. It's a bit of a luxury to do that because we have a small school and everyone is committed to trying ideas (as long as they are fully vetted and will not set the students back), accepting some level of failure, keeping/improving what works, and kicking the stuff to the curb that doesn't.

We have a math coach (who is also an expert at classroom management) who does 5-7 day cycles with teachers in need of support. Sometimes she observes and recommends, other times she does the I do/we do/you do model. There are other tools in her belt that are used as well.

We have an Achievement Manager (who works on our foundation staff) who's core responsibility is to quickly gather data (be it district tests or classroom tests) for teachers, present it to them and help them identify places they need to improve instruction for particular students. The teacher then has to use the tools available to him/her to change instruction. Sometimes the tool is the coach, sometimes it's tutors, sometimes it's finding new ways to present the content. This works particularly well in math--in terms of identifying the strand kids are struggling with. When it's presented graphically it really hits home. 2nd semester last year was the first time we did a full set of data and the teachers were able to see the results of the skills they emphasized and the ones they didn't.

We have seen some improvement from year 1 to year 2. We've seen some improvement within this year. But we're not totally happy and recognize we have a long way to go before we can truly say we are providing every single student what they need.

If I learned anything from this process of starting a school is that you have to be ridiculously intentional. Consistency is your friend. Having everyone on the same page is so important.

Bird said...

Where I work we don't have any dedicated resources for professional development.

Everyone pitches in and provides presentations and talks they think could provide value to others. We seek out co-workers we want to hear from and we expect the folks who are playing at the top of their game or who are delivering some of the more interesting or larger projects to share their experience and expertise with others. It's an expected part of the job.

I can't imagine having a "coach".
If I'm going to take advice from someone I'd rather have it come from a peer who does my sort of work every day and is clearly delivering a top notch product.

I've never gotten the impression that there is that much professional development along these lines for public school teachers. From what I've heard it is largely top down "coaching" or worse some pre-packaged "professional development" bought and brought in.

Is this accurate?

dan dempsey said...

3.29.10 -- the two winners in the first round for Race to the Top funds: Delaware and Tennessee.

ABC covered the story tonight on the evening news. They stated that both of these states have committed to link a student’s test score back to the student’s individual teacher.

This is called “Value-Added Assessments” just as Donna indicated in her article below.

Donna predicted for over a year that the states that will get the money will be those that commit to VAA. It looks as if she was right.

VAA is the key to forcing teachers to teach whatever it is that the federal government wants them to teach. -- Donna Garner

“Obama’s Doublespeak”
by Donna Garner

3.14.10

What were those rights reserved to the states??? Seems everyone in WA DC has no idea.

I am looking for local school based decision making, with real accountability to the local school area. Take a look at the SPS accountability under the MG-J plan!!!!

Now just imagine the Obama-Duncan Plan.....

StepJ said...

Related to the original theme of this thread, Seattle is one of nine Districts chosen for grant funds, link here.


and Gov. Gregoire approves a bill to allow WA to compete for RTT funds, link here

dan dempsey said...

Bird said:

"Is this accurate?"

Spot on 100% accurate.

But you seem to be interested in improving output...... I am not so sure that has anything to do with either MG-J's plan or the Obama-Duncan plan.

Dorothy said...

Trish, thank you. I totally agree that the issue is consistent intentional approach.

Contrast that to the Boeing Grant the SPS got to offer every 9th, 10th and 11th grader the PSAT. What a wealth of data that could provide to the students, the high school teachers and the district. Especially as we've been using a variety of math texts in middle and high schools, so we could potentially see which books and which teachers over the years had better results.

Instead, 14 months after the first PSAT date, (and after the year two data had been received by the district!) Brad (former Broad resident and earns a Huge Salary to do data analysis) provided a report on year one. The lamest excuse of a report with just Means by school and participation rates. When DeBell saw that some schools (in the South end) had poor participation rates, he was mad. The whole point of the grant was to offer something of value to historically under-served. Well, Enfield and Co. just went, well you know "that" sort of kid, wink wink, sigh, what can you do? But then a director pointed out the Cleveland -- same demographic -- had 100% participation rate. Still want to blame the poor minority kids?

No attempt to provide any meaningful data comparing grades, wasl scores, courses taken, or anything to the PSAT score. I'd have been happy to volunteer to grunge through and help create the data. I'm not a skilled enough statistician to make meaningful analyses, but I bet there are parents who could.

What were they thinking with the grant? If I had been the Boeing person who approved the grant, I am not sure I'd be crying or wanting to throw something.

My guess is those supporting TAF do not feel like they are wasting their money.

dan dempsey said...

Little wonder that Delaware was a winner.....

4 years ago Delaware needed help. All of their math programs were reform.

Could this be MG-J's secret plan ... continue with incredibly inadequate achievement gap widening reform math until the FEDS bury us in money???
============

Trish ... let me step up and mock Seattle's use of math coaches ... Check that achievement gap data for the entire SPS in math.

Now let us move onto the every expensive bell & whistle imaginable at Cleveland for three years after a two year period of Pro Dev making 5 years of UW help.

That is precisely why I have filed a complaint about PD3 at Cleveland with the Office of the Inspector General / NSF ... Why I am doing this after three years of abysmal results that seemingly went unnoticed by all those coaches and Anna Maria etc. ... What are those folks doing? Looks like just Cheer-leading and NO analysis.

Sure makes "mocking coaches" not the issue but rather Accountability for spending $11 million annually to get ... to get ... to get WHAT?

spedParent said...

Coaches? We've got them now in special education. What are the qualifications for "special education coach"? You were riffed as a kindergarten teacher. No special master teacher. No special certification in the teaching of teachers... not even seniority. Only qualification is that you somehow lost your job. Oh yeah. They cancelled some special education kindergarten positions. No problem. Those people are now coaches. Does that do anything for our students? If we really do need coaches, wouldn't you want to look a little further to fill the need? Does that sound like sufficient experience to be a generalized
"coach"? Not to me it doesn't. You know, the kids do get bigger. Kindergarten experience just doesn't take you that far.

dan dempsey said...

Meanwhile at OSPI we have this.

At the bottom under Awards:

Note: Not all districts which apply for SIGs will be served. Selection will be based on greatest need, strongest commitment and willingness to implement reforms, and availability of funds.


Effective reforms or just any old thing PD3 style? Cleveland Black student Math WASL pass rate 10% with 5 years of UW help.... RBHS at 25% with no help from UW.


Priority
OSPI must give first priority to districts that apply to serve Tier I or Tier II schools.


{Great Job Seattle on putting Cleveland HS right in the mix with the three year unmonitored Math experiment on Students}

No funds may be awarded to any district for Tier III schools unless and until OSPI has awarded SIG funds to serve fully, throughout the period of availability of SIG funds, ALL Tier I and Tier II schools across the state that districts commit to serve and that OSPI determines the district has the capacity to serve. A district with one or more Tier I schools may not receive funds to serve only its Tier III schools.

I feel so much better about SPS math leadership now ... Don't you?

Dora Taylor said...

The winner in this is Gates and the Broad Foundation. Do you see what they've been able to do with Arne Duncan at the helm? The Broad and Arne Duncan developed a close relationship when Arne was in Chicago. There are very close ties involved.

They have gotten all but two states to fall in line with this education reform agenda without having to pay most states a penny. It's the best business acumen I have seen in a long time and just about everyone has fallen for it.

Wave that carrot in front of enough political noses, say that they MAY receive the money but either way they have to play the game and see what happens. No one questions the motives, the agenda or even if it's the best thing for our children.

Don't get all caught up in coaches and whatever. Zoom out and see the larger picture. Understand that the state of Washington is now on the way to the Federal Government controlling what our teachers teach, how they teach it and the scope of information that our children are to learn thanks to education reformites like Eli Broad, Bill Gates and the Waltons with a lot of corporate entities trailing behind to pick up all of the cash that will go the way of testing, student and teacher assessments and charter schools.

MathTeacher42 said...

I've made very contemptuous comments about the performance of American private sector management over the last 30+ years. YAWN. Too bad it isn't easier to look up my comments.

It makes sense that education management has to blame systemic failures on the teachers, instead of looking at those ... ha ha ha... 'responsible' for managing the systems. The private sector has been doing it effectively for decades.

I've been mentally drafting a comment about the credentialed cliques of power point consultants all singing from the same choir book of disinformation.

Tonight, I'm watching "As You Like It" on DVD, (Kenneth Branaugh, Director) and once again timeless literature provides timeless - relevance!

ORLANDO:
O good old man, how well in thee appears
The constant service of the antique world,
When service sweat for duty, not for meed!
Thou art not for the fashion of these times,
Where none will sweat but for promotion,


R. Murphy

dan dempsey said...

Mr. Murphy,

When positive results are unavailable due to years of educational mismanagement.....

All that is left to sell is "Promotion". Updating this classic would require the word Spin.

"Where none will sweat but for SPIN"

MGJ needs the biggest SPIN job in education history as spending escalates in central Admin while measurable results do not. More Public Relations experts need to be employed.

Lets hear it for those 111.5 coaches and larger class sizes, is that working yet?

hschinske said...

Okay, so did Cleveland get any money or not, or have we still not heard? I seem to have missed that part of the news.

Helen Schinske

hschinske said...

Harium's response: "Seattle Public Schools was one of 10 disricts in the state to recieve School Improvement Grants. The funds will good to support improvements at 3 schools identified by the state as low performing and Cleveland is one of the 3."

He hasn't yet said how much the schools got. I believe the possible amount is up to $2 million per school, but presumably it could have been any amount under that.

Helen Schinske

SolvayGirl1972 said...

But of course they're really going to improve the school by replacing a big chunk of the students (at least the incoming freshman class). I'll be curious to see if the District will give out the stats for how many kids chose to stay at Cleveland with the new program.