Monday, August 31, 2009

Let the games begin

Recently the comment period for the US Department of Education proposed Race to the Top guidelines was closed. After reading through the proposed criteria ( I submitted my thoughts to the Department of Education. I will share them over the next few days here.

Dear Secretary Duncan:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on the proposed criteria for Race to the Top funding. I was honored to be invited to attend the announcement on July 24th as a guest of the American Federation of Teachers. There are many goals in Race to the Top that inspire me, and with the right detail in the finalized criteria, these unprecedented resources could transform my profession in a way that allows us to meet the needs of our students and their families like never before. Because the Department of Education is providing an opportunity to make comments I would like to express my ideas for targeting the criteria in a way that better sustains the best work teachers already do and supports us as we tap our collective experience and knowledge to bring our most innovative ideas to life.

State Standards & Teaching Standards:

The collaboration you have outlined for developing and establishing common state standards is evident and helpful. In the same way that you have clearly outlined the expectations for high quality state standards and assessments in A(3) of the State Reform Conditions Criteria, the expectation for teacher preparation and teacher readiness must include clear expectations as well. It is not enough to limit the definition of measurement for or the conversation about teacher effectiveness to “regulatory barriers to linking data on student achievement or student growth” as you have defined with this notice. Generic student achievement data will not relevantly evaluate a teacher. [C(2)]

In St. Paul, we have gotten an agreement from St. Paul Public Schools to develop a Peer Assistance and Review program that covers the spectrum of teaching quality. Our intention is to enhance our current Achievement of Tenure Program so that earning tenure is never accidental, to have high-quality and relevant support for struggling teachers with clear expectations for improvement, as well as to have opportunities for strong teachers to be conscientiously supported as they continue to grow. A deliberate, rigorous path to tenure, support for someone before they fail, and further support for already strong teachers should be the focus of any meaningful local way of addressing teacher quality. To merely frame the discussion as tied to standardized test scores is to ignore the vast amount of learning and assessment a teacher is responsible for during the majority of our school year. My position is for the proposed criteria to be written to include the deliberate inclusion of developing teaching standards and evaluations that measure the entire scope of the daily and aggregate work a teacher is expected to do. Locally developed, relevant evaluations will be applicable to the broadest range of teachers and better capture the number of grade levels, specialties, disciplines, and experience levels for the targeted expectations you have outlined for professional development.[C(2)i]