Race To The Top: Under The Hood

Thursday, November 12, 2009
My colleagues and I at the New Teacher Center submitted revised language during the public comment period to strengthen proposed Race to the Top (RttT) regulations. (8/28/2009: "RttT: Redefining Teacher Effectiveness".) I am delighted that most of our suggestions were adopted. Specifically, three changes I am pleased to see in the final RttT regulations and state application released by the U.S. Department of Education today are:

(1) A focus on multiple measures in teacher evaluation.

We have defined effective teacher to mean “a teacher whose students achieve acceptable rates (e.g., at least one grade level in an academic year) of student growth (as defined in this notice). States, LEAs, or schools must include multiple measures, provided that teacher effectiveness is evaluated, in significant part, by student growth (as defined in this notice). Supplemental measures may include, for example, multiple observation-based assessments of teacher performance.”

We have revised criterion (D)(2)(ii) to read, “Design and implement rigorous, transparent, and fair evaluation systems for teachers and principals that (a) differentiate effectiveness using multiple rating categories that take into account data on student growth (as defined in this notice) as a significant factor, and (b) are designed and developed with teacher and principal involvement.”

(2) A stronger focus on school leaders and the inclusion of positive teaching and learning conditions in the definition of effective principal.

We have changed the definition of effective principal as follows: (a) replaced “States may supplement this definition as they see fit” with “States, LEAs, or schools must include multiple measures;” (b) added ”Supplemental measures may include, for example, high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates, as well as evidence of providing supportive teaching and learning conditions, strong instructional leadership, and positive family and community engagement;” and (c) replaced “so long as principal effectiveness is judged, in significant measure by student growth” with “provided that principal effectiveness is evaluated, in significant part, by student growth.”

(3) Greater attention to the need for high-quality teacher induction, mentoring and professional development.

We agree that induction programs and coaching by accomplished teachers and principals can be important and effective strategies for supporting novice teachers and principals upon their entering the profession. We are revising the criterion to clarify that States’ plans in response to this criterion should provide for coaching and induction programs as supports for teachers and principals. Changes: We have revised criterion (D)(5)(i) to clarify that plans should include providing effective, data-informed “coaching” and “induction.”

We agree that professional development, including mentoring and coaching, are important aspects of teacher effectiveness. For this reason, criterion (D)(2)(iv)(a) focuses on using evaluations to inform decisions regarding developing effective teachers and principals, including by providing relevant coaching, induction support, and/or professional development. Criterion (D)(5) also provides for evaluation of the extent to which a State has a high-quality plan for its participating LEAs to provide effective, data-informed professional development, coaching, induction, and common planning and collaboration time to teachers and principals.

Sources of great analysis on the final RttT regulations here:
  • Education Week (Michele McNeil): "Rules Set for $4 Billion 'Race to Top' Contest"
  • New York Times (Sam Dillon): "After Criticism, The Administration Is Praised for Final Rules on Education Grants"
  • Teacher Beat: "Teacher Elements of Final Race to the Top Guidelines"
  • Eduflack: "Just The Race Facts"
  • Eduflack: "The Race Officially Begins ... Now"
  • Eduwonk: "Racing To The Top"