Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Is R2T the model for education's future?

As Louisiana rushes to get a piece of the big new federal education pie, the national perspective on the $4.4 billion Race to the Top program is becoming clearer. Education Week reports that the direction taken by R2T will soon be reflected in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

EdWeek reporter Alyson Klein says the Obama administration and Education Secretary Arne Duncan plan to make R2T "the cornerstone of the Obama administration’s plans for a new ESEA. "

Klein quotes administration spokesperson Carmel Martin as saying, “I think some of our big-picture goals are, first, to carry through the reform agenda that we see in Race to the Top and other [recovery act] programs, to carry that forward through ESEA.”

Educators - including the LFT - are dubious about sections of R2T that encourage expanding charter schools and basing teacher evaluations in part on student achievement.

But in Louisiana, Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek has been willing to listen to Federation concerns and modify the state's R2T application in response to them. Notably, Pastorek scaled back the percentage of evaluations that depends on test scores, and included a "learning environment index" that takes factors beyond a teacher's control - such as poverty and school resources - into account.

This press release from the State Department of Education recognizes LFT's role in shaping Louisiana's response.

As EdWeek points out, R2T's coming influence concerns some states because of its emphasis on common standards. That could work to Louisiana's benefit.

While our accountability standards have earned the state much praise from reformers because of their rigor, we've been at a competitive disadvantage with other states with lower academic standards. Our high standards make it look as though our children aren't performing at the same level as those in other states, when the reality is that we are simply demanding more of our students.
Common standards would level that playing field.

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