'Race to the Top' School Plan Unveiled
Van Roekel: Collaboration with educators key to program's success
Monday, July 27, 2009 -- The Education Department's $4.35 billion 'Race to the Top' program is on, but the release of draft details of the grant funding plan Friday indicate that it is the beginning of a long marathon.
The fund is intended to reward innovation in education focusing on four main areas: teacher effectiveness/distribution, standards and assessments, data systems, and struggling schools. It is part of the nearly $100 billion set aside for education in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
A peek at the draft reveals preference for grant funding is likely to go to states that ease limits on charter schools, use student achievement data in the evaluation of teachers and administrators, and move toward common academic standards.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, who attended the event at the Department of Education along with other NEA leaders, applauded the Obama administration for showing a significant financial commitment to creating great public schools for every student and for its willingness to include teachers in the discussion about how 'Race to the Top' can accomplish that goal.
But some of the draft details for the grant plan are cause for concern, said Van Roekel. "If we continue to focus narrowly on test scores, then students in need of the most support will continue to get more test prep rather than the rich, challenging, engaging education they deserve," he said. As for those student test scores being used to evaluate teachers, "they should be evaluated on their practice using multiple criteria, not just one."
Which is not to say that NEA opposes states' gathering and use of student data. Such data is essential for teachers developing students' instruction and curriculum. When it comes to evaluating the teachers themselves, multiple criteria should be used.
In the 30 days set aside for comments on the plan, NEA will analyze the details of the proposal to find common ground with the Administration, Van Roekel said.
"While we may not agree on every tactic or proposal the department puts forward, our commitment to the end result could not be clearer," Van Roekel said. "We want a great public school for every student in this country, and we know that it will take serious measures to achieve this goal."