Tag Archives: Race to the Top

Teachers as Entrepreneurs: A Refreshing Race to the Top Idea?

Knowing that teacher quality is so essential to successful student learning, Colorado’s lawmakers and education officials should be doing more to enact policies that promote teacher autonomy, excellence, and accountability. The Maryland Public Policy Institute does just that with its new report calling for “Teachers as Entrepreneurs” (PDF). The idea? Instead of placing all instructors under the terms of a centralized bargaining contract, allow for some individual teachers or teams of teachers to contract with a school district to perform instructional services. Either union or non-union, they could agree on setting terms regarding class size, basic working conditions, performance and differential pay, and retirement plans. This approach would give individual teachers greater freedom to determine whether they want to support and subsidize political activities. It would require state law to take a neutral position on the issue of unionization and exclusive representation.

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Who's Surprised Stimulus "Magical Money Tree" Isn't Funding Reform?

Hey, I may be little, but I’m smart. People should pay attention to me. Back in January, I told you that the stimulus bill — before it even passed — would blow dollars away from education reform. What? You doubt that it’s true? This week the American Enterprise Institute’s Andy Smarick put out its second “Education Stimulus Watch” brief (PDF) observes there is “little evidence that that states and districts are making reduction decisions with either reform or long-term considerations in mind.” One large obstacle to using the difficult times to effect creative change — besides plain-old bureaucratic inertia — is restrictive union contracts, notes Smarick. Surprise, surprise.

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Will Colorado "Race to the Top" of the Class? Would That Be a Good Thing?

Update, 8/26: The witty voice of experienced education reformer Checker Finn eloquently notes that “the country’s most powerful education organization has fired a big grumpy shell across the bow of the country’s earnest and determined education secretary. This battle is joined.” I invite you to read his perspective. When it comes to the U.S. Department of Education doling out money to states for reform and innovation, is Colorado like the nerdy kid at the front of the class who sucks up to the teachers? That’s the colorful metaphor Education Week blogger Alyson Klein crafts to explain our state’s approach to getting Arne Duncan‘s “Race to the Top” money: If the competition for a slice of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund were a K-12 class, Colorado would be the kid sitting right up front, wearing gigantic glasses, furiously taking notes, and leaping up to answer every single one of the teacher’s questions. The latest effort? A petition, sent to folks in Colorado, urging them to endorse the state’s bid. Hidden beneath the surface are concerns that Colorado might not meet the early expectations and be one of the top finalists.

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Kudos to the Commish, But Parents Also Have Important Reform Role to Play

Yesterday, in a Denver Post guest commentary, Colorado’s commissioner of education Dwight Jones weighed in with some thoughts about our “race to the top” for innovative and effective education reform: Innovation is more than just a good idea, it’s about putting that good idea into practice. The Colorado Department of Education is presently pursuing a wide variety of innovative education models, including new approaches to teacher preparation, leadership development, school choice and the way in which education is funded. We are organizing strategies and directing resources in ways to innovate intentionally, and, in so doing, increase capacity to take to scale what improves education for Colorado’s students.

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Arne Duncan & Feds Spending Freely, Doing Little for Real School Reform

Yesterday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan came to town. The good news is he visited two of Denver’s autonomy schools: Bruce Randolph and Montclair. The Education Secretary certainly is saying the right things about how this approach can grow: “The business we should be in is scaling up what works as quickly as possible,” Duncan said. “Let’s take those lessons, let’s replicate them and move on absolutely as fast as we can with a sense of urgency. We have to get dramatically better as a country, and we need to do it as fast as we can.” The $5 billion pot of “Race to the Top” innovation money is supposed to fulfill this purpose. As pointed out by Swifty Charlie and Flypaper’s Mike Petrilli, the reality is that “Race to the Top” is the only part of the federal stimulus funds that has even a legitimate shot at advancing school reform. Colorado may make some modest strides with the innovation dollars, but it very well could be outweighed by the much greater opportunity and resources wasted.

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