"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What Do Prince and Educational Reform Mandates Have in Common? They both Changed their Names.

We are delighted to feature a guest blogger writing about Race to the Top like mandates that Missouri instituted but without Race to the Top funding.  Similar to the announcement  of the singer Prince changing his name to symbols (and thereafter being referred to as "The Artist formerly Known as Prince"), the Race to the Top mandates and their copy cat mandates have evolved into a name changing event as well.  In the interest of being accurate and tracing their transformation, let it forever be known that the mandates instituted in Missouri will no longer be referred to as "Race to the Top".  Hereafter, one will correctly speak of them in terms of "The Educational Reforms Formerly Known as Race to the Top".

As we move forward in 2012 with regards to education reform in Missouri, there seems to be a bit of confusion among our state legislators on Facebook in understanding what Race to the Top (RTTT) was and how components of the federal program are now being implemented in Missouri schools.  First and foremost, Missouri DID NOT win a RTTT grant. I think most of us involved with the education issues understand and know this to be true.   When legislators respond to concerned citizens, they all state this fact. However, upon further research into the reforms and programs being put into place by DESE, it is normal to question the difference.   Below you will find the major components of the US Department of Education’s federally funded Race to the Top program.  This information can be found here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/fact-sheet-race-top

The Race to the Top emphasizes the following reform areas:
1.       Designing and implementing rigorous standards and high-quality assessments, by encouraging states to work jointly toward a system of common academic standards that builds toward college and career readiness, and that includes improved assessments designed to measure critical knowledge and higher-order thinking skills.   (Common Core State Standards)

2.       Attracting and keeping great teachers and leaders in America’s classrooms, by expanding effective support to teachers and principals; reforming and improving teacher preparation; revising teacher evaluation, compensation, and retention policies to encourage and reward effectiveness; and working to ensure that our most talented teachers are placed in the schools and subjects where they are needed the most. (Teacher and Leaders evaluation system tied to test scores)

3.       Supporting data systems that inform decisions and improve instruction, by fully implementing a statewide longitudinal data system, assessing and using data to drive instruction, and making data more accessible to key stakeholders.

4.       Using innovation and effective approaches to turn-around struggling schools, by asking states to prioritize and transform persistently low-performing schools. (turnaround model)

  •  In June 2010, the Missouri State Board of Education officially adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).   According to the DESE website http://dese.mo.gov/  Missouri schools need to transition to the new by the 2014/2015 school year as that is the first year all students will be REQUIRED to take the first Smarter Balanced Assessments aligned to the new standards.  DESE refers to the new assessments as the Next Generation Assessments. 
  •  According to the DESE site http://dese.mo.gov/qs/esea-waiver.html Missouri is in the process of creating an evaluation procedure for teachers and leaders.  Currently local districts may design their own evaluation systems.  Under the new system, schools may use either the DESE created model evaluation tool, or align their own evaluation tool to the DESE tool.
  • Missouri currently has a statewide longitudinal data system and most recently secured a company to provide student information services at a cost to local school districts. http://dese.mo.gov/ 
  • Missouri has already implemented the strategies in utilizing the turnaround model in the Kansas City School District.  Missouri also received a $9 Million grant from the Federal government to institute turnaround models and transform persistently low performing schools.  http://www2.ed.gov/programs/sif/summary2010/moapp10.pdf

The state has also applied for a NCLB waiver to release our state from the accountability mandates within the law.  http://dese.mo.gov/qs/esea-waiver.html

In the 44 page waiver request, the state has to agree to certain terms.  It does not take a rocket scientist to make an educated guess as to what the federal government wants in return for granting the waiver.  If you guessed all of the above actions and compliances must be agreed to by a state, you are correct!  You receive a gold star and may move to the head of the class!

So… in light of all of the changes DESE has made over the past two years, I guess one could say the state of Missouri has fully implemented all of the components of RTTT, only one chunk at a time and without having to “officially” state that we won Race to the Top. 

I hope this clears up any confusion our elected officials may have with regards to RTTT and the NCLB waiver.  As anyone can clearly see, they are all one of the same!  Yes Virginia, there really is RTTT in Missouri!  Shh!  Just don’t tell our legislators that! 


Our guest blogger has eloquently explained the issues surrounding "The Educational Reforms Formerly Known as Race to the Top".  This concocted controversy of stating that Missouri didn't receive RTTT (even though we are instituting the mandates) should be put to rest so taxpayers and legislators can focus on the facts of the current educational landscape which is detrimental (and unconstitutional) for students, parents, teachers and taxpayers.

Enjoy "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince" singing about  "Controversy".  Our guest blogger has cleared up any such controversy about Race to the Top spin from our legislators. 

1 comment:

  1. Maybe it is good that it is an election year!


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