Running the Race
Delaware scored a coup when it won millions of dollars in federal Race to the Top funding for education reform. So what’s the plan?
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“We are not going to invest money in places where we don’t think there’s a strong possibility of real education reform,” says Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery.
That means school districts and charter schools must present comprehensive plans for reform and prove universal buy-in before they can lay claim to a portion of the $119 million in federal money. And that’s a good thing.
“Race to the Top represents a cultural shift,” says Diane Donohue, president of the Delaware State Education Association, the teachers’ union. “Collaboration is the key to much of this being successful, and that’s something that teachers have wanted for a long time.”
The Race to the Top Fund is a $4.35 billion federal fund to support school reform in four key areas: adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace; building data systems that measure student growth and retention and give educators feedback on how to improve instruction; recruiting, developing, rewarding and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially in high-needs schools; and turning around the lowest-performing schools.
Receiving funding in the first round of the Race to the Top competition was a coup for Delaware—one of only two states able to prove it had both a workable reform plan and a good chance of success. Delaware’s plan, says Governor Jack Markell, evolved out of “a road map for the next generation of education reform in Delaware” that he had asked Lowery to put together in the summer of 2009. That early work, combined with public-private buy-in from stakeholders and a two-decade legacy of academic innovation, helped push Delaware to the top, Markell says.
Now it’s time to begin implementing the plan. Half of Delaware’s $119 million allotment, paid out over four years, will go to the state Department of Education, half to Delaware’s school districts and charter schools (known as local education authorities or LEAs).
The state has announced detailed plans for its half of the money. More than $12 million, for example, will be used to enhance Department of Education data systems. It also will pay to send data coaches into the schools to show teachers how to use the information for developing lesson plans. Professional development will get a bump of $4 million, and more than $3 million will go toward training for new teachers.
Page 2: Running the Race, continues...