Articles tagged with Race to the top

NSBA applauds proposed K-12 budget increase, but more funds needed for Title I and special education

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) welcomed the 2 percent increase in discretionary funding for education in President Obama’s $3.9 trillion proposed federal budget for fiscal 2015. But NSBA leaders remain concerned that the budget did not include badly needed increases in two of the most foundational formula programs for school districts: Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“We applaud President Obama’s pledge to raise K-12 education funding at a time when strong public schools are vitally important to America’s families and the nation’s global competitiveness,” NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel said. “However, we are deeply disappointed to see no increases for Title I and IDEA despite the critical need for these programs and the tremendous burden that the lack of federal funding for them is putting on school districts.”

Currently, the federal government provides less than 16 percent of the cost of IDEA, despite promising three decades ago when the law was passed to pay 40 percent of excess costs. Title I is similarly underfunded.  In order to adequately meet needs of the 10 million disadvantaged children who qualify for the program, the federal government would need to increase its Title I appropriation by more than $30 billion, according to the Committee for Education Funding.

Among the president’s proposals are $500 million to help states improve early childhood programs, and a $300 million Race to the Top competition for states that would be targeted toward reducing the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and those from middle-class and wealthy families.

Lawrence Hardy|March 5th, 2014|Categories: Budgeting, Federal Programs, Race to the Top (RTTT), Special Education|Tags: , , , |

Secretary Duncan addresses school board members at NSBA meeting

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged school board members Monday at NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting in Washington, D.C., to “stay the course” through a tumultuous time in public education, predicting that in a few years the nation will see big results from programs such as Race to the Top (RTTT) and the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

“The implementation of Common Core is really difficult,” Duncan said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, and I really urge you to stay the course.”

However, he added: “I think the back-end of all this – three or four years from now – the country’s going to be in a radically different place.”

Duncan spoke briefly, but quickly and emphatically. He praised school board members for their dedication, and gave out his email address, saying he wanted to hear their concerns. In a short question and answer period, skeptical board members raised concerns about the proliferation of charter schools; unfunded federal mandates; competitions for funding, such as RTTT (the questioner said dedicated funding made more sense); and what many saw as an erosion of local control.

“This is a tough crowd,” the education secretary quipped at one point.

One requirement for states receiving funds has been a lifting of state caps on the number of charter schools. But Duncan said he didn’t favor charters over regular public schools.

“I’m just a big proponent of high-quality public schools,” Duncan said. “That’s traditional schools. That’s magnet schools. And that may be charter schools.”

Speaking of the achievement gap, Duncan said, “In some places we’re seeing real progress, but in other places these gaps are extraordinarily large.”

But Melinda Bernard, a board member for the St. Charles Parish Public Schools in Louisiana, said the problems of public school are being exaggerated.

“I think you will agree, public education’s being denigrated by the media recently,” Bernard told Duncan. “Especially our teachers.”

Duncan touted some of the Obama administration’s accomplishments, including an additional $600 million for early childhood education and an increase in the number of Pell Grants from 6 million in 2008 to 10 million last year. He said the $4 billion in competitive grants for RTTT may seem like a large number, but is less than 1 percent of the department’s $650 billion budget. He said that competition has spurred states to make major innovations regarding the common core, teacher evaluation, and other challenges.

Speaking of the recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Duncan said the Obama administration has “huge support for the Second Amendment,” but added, “I do feel that if we don’t act now as a country, we will never act.”

A former school superintendent for the Chicago Public Schools, Duncan said he was acquainted with the problem of violence, particularly in inner-city neighborhoods.

“We lost one child every two weeks due to the gang problem,” Duncan said. “It was a staggering loss.”

Lawrence Hardy|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, National Standards, Preschool Education, School Security|Tags: , , , , |

School boards need more flexibility with turnaround reform models

School board members who attended NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting in Washington, D.C., Monday were briefed on the latest research and status of the turnaround reform model embedded into many federal and state reform laws and requirements, including federal Race to the Top grants.

“These strategies are in all the major federal programs at this point,” said Katherine Shek, a legislative analyst with NSBA. She outlined the four reform models of the turnaround program, including turnaround (replace principal and at least 50 percent of staff); conversion to a charter school or giving the governance to private management group; closuring the school and sending students to higher performing schools in the district; and transformation, which requires replacing the principal and putting in a number of reforms and supports.

By far the most popular option for school board members and state leaders is transformation, which gives the district the most flexibility in making decisions and changes.

Jim Hull, senior policy analyst of NSBA’s Center for Public Education told the audience about an upcoming research report from CPE that shows that the research on the effectiveness of these turnaround strategies is mixed. Several strategies are clearly meant for urban schools – rural schools don’t have the labor pool to fire half of their teachers and it is difficult for them to recruit new principals.

Hull said, “For federal and state law to be so prescriptive doesn’t match with the research. Flexibility is needed. It should be up to local school officials to decide.

Kathleen Vail|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Center for Public Education, Charter Schools, FRN Conference 2013, Leadership, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , , |

NSBA shows how Race to the Top hurts small districts

Lucy Gettman, director of federal programs at the National School Boards Association (NSBA), recently spoke to The Atlantic about the recent announcement of the Race to the Top federal grants for school districts. Gettman noted that the competitive grant program tends to put small, high poverty, and rural school districts at a disadvantage with its lengthy application process.

The author, Emily Richmond, the public editor for the Education Writers Association, has shared her question-and-answer session with Gettman on EWA’s EdMedia Commons website, which is designed to help reporters covering education.

NSBA was pleased that the U.S. Department of Education dropped its plans to require a school board evaluation as part of the process, but remains concerned about other provisions of the program. Read the interview at EdMedia Commons.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 21st, 2012|Categories: Budgeting, Educational Finance, Federal Advocacy, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Race to the Top (RTTT)|Tags: , , , , |

New details, deadlines for Race to the Top district grants released

The U.S. Department of Education has released the final requirements for Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) grant applications, a program designed to improve classroom instruction and teaching to directly impact student learning.

These grants will distribute nearly $400 million directly to school districts for programs that support teaching and learning and the goals of the Race to the Top state grants. The department is expected to award 15 to 25 grants ranging from $5 million to $40 million.

Qualifying school districts must serve at least 2,000 students with 40 percent or more qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, or join with other districts that meet this qualification. Grants will support learning strategies that personalize education in all or a group of schools, within specific grade levels, or select subjects. Districts also must demonstrate a commitment to Race to the Top’s four core reform areas and the district superintendent or CEO, local school board president, and local teacher union president (or 70 percent of teachers in districts without collective bargaining) must sign off on the plan.

The department will conduct technical assistance webinars for school officials on Aug. 16 and Aug. 21, 2012.  Registration for the webinars is available at the Race to the Top website.

School boards should first evaluate the work needed to apply for the grant and the likelihood of receiving an award, advised Michael A. Resnick, the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy.

NSBA submitted extensive comments on the draft requirements for the RTT-D program urging federal officials to articulate and preserve local school board authority. NSBA’s lobbying efforts resulted in a big win for local school boards when a requirement that grantees evaluate local school boards was deleted.  Other provisions – such as required 10-day comment period for state education agencies and mayors – may prove too onerous for school districts, according to Resnick.

School districts and consortia interested in applying must notify the agency of their intent by Aug. 30, 2012.  The deadline for applications is Oct. 30, 2012 and grant awards will be made by the end of this year.  More information about the RTT-D Program is on the department’s website.

According to the department, “Grantees will be selected based on their vision and capacity for reform as well as a strong plan that provides educators with resources to accelerate student achievement and prepare students for college and their careers. Plans will focus on transforming the learning environment so that it meets all students’ learning abilities, making equity and access to high-quality education a priority. Teachers will receive real-time feedback that helps them adapt to their students’ needs, allowing them to create opportunities for students to pursue areas of personal academic interest – while ensuring that each student is ready for college and their career.”

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 14th, 2012|Categories: Announcements, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, Race to the Top (RTTT), School Reform|Tags: , , , |

NSBA asks for changes to local Race to the Top proposal

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is concerned that the federal government’s proposed criteria for a new, $400 million Race to the Top (RTTT) district competition could stifle innovation and local control.

“Several of the draft requirements threaten to diminish the program as an [local education agency] grant in name only, including first time requirements that represent alarming precedents for the future,” NSBA wrote in a June 8 letter to the U.S. Department of Education.

In particular, the letter asks the Education Department to eliminate a requirement for school board evaluations, in part because the proposed accountability system would not be a valid measure for school board governance. Further, given that about 95 percent of the nation’s more than 13,000 school boards are elected, community residents already have a accountability mechanism.

NSBA also asks the Education Department to eliminate the “state and mayor, city, or town administrator (MCT) comment period on LEA grant applications,” as these entities may not have a strong knowledge base of education policy and could stifle school district’s innovative proposals. The letter also asks the agency to revise or eliminate other requirements deemed to be bureaucratic or problematic.

The Education Department released draft criteria in May for grants that will go directly to eligible school districts. The concept of the program is to provide RTTT funds that will be aligned with the agency’s reform principles directly to local school districts.

According to NSBA’s legislative advocacy department, this is a “modest program that might be attractive to some school districts, given that the number of grant awards is between 15 and 20 and the maximum grant amount is $15 – 25 million each based on the number of participating students. The program is open to all school districts, not just those located in states that have been awarded RTTT grants.”

Applications will be available in July and grants awarded in December.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 7th, 2012|Categories: Announcements, Board governance, Race to the Top (RTTT)|Tags: , , |

NSBA reviews RTTT proposal for school districts

The National School Boards Association is reviewing the U.S. Department of Education’s draft plan for a new Race to the Top (RTTT) district competition. The proposal would send nearly $400 million directly to eligible school districts, regardless of whether their states applied for the RTTT state grants.

The agency announced its proposal on May 22 and will take public comments through June 8.

The program would give grants up to $25 million to school districts that have at least 2,500 students and at least 40 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch.

The proposal includes a requirement for school board evaluations as a contingency of a school district receiving funds. Reginald Felton, NSBA’s Assistant Executive Director for Congressional Relations, said that NSBA would not favor a comprehensive evaluation process, but would rather see a system based on indicators of support for increased student performance and focusing on specific responsibilities rather than a board’s overall performance.

Read more about the  proposal on the Education Department’s website.

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|May 24th, 2012|Categories: Race to the Top (RTTT), School Boards|Tags: , |

The week in blogs

In school board circles — you might say, “school board lore” — it’s known simply as “The Blueberry Story.” But for our purposes, we’ll call it “The Blueberry Question” and add that any audience query that backs a public speaker into a corner (a rightfully deserved corner, some might say) “A Blueberry Question.” This week, in a Washington Post blog, Mary Fertakis, a board member for the Tukwila (Wash.) School District, describes a classic “Blueberry Question” she asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan last winter during NSBA’s Federal Relations Conference.

More on that later. But first, the original. In case you haven’t heard it, here it is, very briefly: Many years ago, Jamie Vollmer, an ice cream entrepreneur and public school critic who wanted schools run more like businesses, was questioned by a polite veteran English teacher after one of his lectures. She asked if he makes great ice cream, and, as he would later describe, he fell into “the trap.” After he raved about the quality of his ice cream and all its premium ingredients, she asked what he did if he got an inferior shipment of blueberries.

“I send them back,” he said, already sensing that he was a goner.

Then the teacher gave an eloquent speech about schools not being able to send back their blueberries – the blueberries, of course, being children, who arrive at school rich or poor, speaking English or not, well-adjusted or troubled. Vollmer thought about that, and soon thereafter his attitude shifted ’s 180 degrees and he became a champion for the public schools.

So, what was Fertakis’ “Blueberry Question? As she describes it in the Post’s Answer Sheet blog, her question to Duncan was this: “Should children have to compete for their education?” and of course, his answer, indeed anyone’s answer, had to be “no.” But then he was left to explain why Race to the Top, which Fertakis says pits small, rural, and disadvantaged school districts against larger, wealthier ones, is good policy.

Duncan’s no Vollmer (I’m talking pre-Blueberry-Question Vollmer) and he’s doing all he can to help close the achievement gap. But Fertakis column is an eloquent account of what it’s like to lead what the New York Times once called the “most diverse school district in the United States.”

There was a lot more in the national press this week, including a National Journal experts’ blog on bullying. The forum takes, as its starting point, NSBA’s recently launched Students on Board initiative, which encourages board members to get a better understanding of their schools through talking directly to students.

Also, see the sobering report Kids Count, from the Anne E. Casey Foundation, which found that child poverty increased 18 percent between 2000 and 2009. And nearly 8 million children in 2009 were living with at least one parent who was unemployed but looking for a job.

 

 

 

 

 

Lawrence Hardy|August 19th, 2011|Categories: Diversity, School Boards, Student Achievement, Uncategorized, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , , , |

Increasing numbers saying no thanks to federal funds and their mandates

P1010709_009_mI’ve always wondered if a local school board would be better off rejecting all federal money—and, finally relieved of untold mandates, it could reallocate its local and state funds more efficiently . . . to the point that it was actually better off without the lost funds.

This old idea came to mind again after reading that South Carolina Education Superintendent Mick Zais had declared that his state wouldn’t compete for the latest round of Race to the Top funds.

His reasoning: Accepting the money was penny-wise and pound-foolish.

“In exchange for these dollars,” he wrote in a newspaper editorial, “‘winning’ states dance to Washington’s tune on education. When the music stops and the money is exhausted, states will be left on the dance floor and paying for their rides home. This is an all-too-familiar occurrence with federal programs.”

One specific complaint by Zais was that too much of the federal dollars would be diverted away from teacher pay, new school buses, up-to-date computers, or dozens of other purposes that actually would benefit local students.

“Rather,” he complained, “it would have paid for new employees at the state Department of Education and in district offices, contracts with out-of-state education consultants, rented office space, travel expenses and even $96,000 in box lunches.”

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Naomi Dillon|June 2nd, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Budgeting, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , , , |

A rich vocabulary, useful in any context

the-power-of-wordsHow many eighth graders can explain the meaning of the word oligarchy? What about antebellum, or insurrection? These are words that eighth-grade students should be familiar with when it comes to their social studies curriculum, and a new plan in Tennessee is working to make sure that this happens, according to the Washington Post.

The purpose of the Academic Vocabulary Project is to close the gap between students from low-income families and their more financially stable peers. The former often lag behind in many areas of school, and vocabulary is an especially stubborn problem.

Two things about this program make it stand out to me: that it was established well before the state came out as a winner last month in the “Race to the Top” program, and that it is not specifically designed to increase standardized test performance. In an education system where federal funding is the Holy Grail, and test scores seem to be the best way to get to it, it’s refreshing to see a program that is truly innovative in its focus on something other than test preparation.
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Naomi Dillon|April 15th, 2010|Categories: American School Board Journal, Curriculum, Governance, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |
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