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Wednesday, August 25, 2010
RTTT “farce”? HSTA, progressives already scheming to fudge accountability requirements
By Andrew Walden @ 1:33 PM :: 11258 Views :: Maui County, Education K-12, Energy, Environment, National News, Ethics

by Andrew Walden

The HSTA’s participation in Hawaii DoE’s Race To The Top application was a key element of the State’s successful RTTT application—ranking Hawaii third in school reform nationwide.  But beyond the confines of Hawaii’s so-called media, the RTTT process is drawing catcalls and derisive laughter. 

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal today, Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a non-profit group that pushes for higher educational standards, pointed out: "The administration's unwillingness to reward the real reform states shows a complete lack of political courage.  The rhetoric of Race to the Top has turned into a farce."

Newsweek yesterday explained:

Some education reformers described themselves as stunned that two states generally considered to be at the forefront of school innovation, Louisiana and Colorado, were among the "losers," while states with less impressive reform bona fides—Hawaii, Maryland, Ohio—were among the winners. Louisiana and Colorado were finalists in rounds one and two of the competition, while neither Hawaii nor Maryland made the finals in the first round….

(New Orleans and Denver were among the highest rated by a new study on the most reform-minded cities, released earlier today. New York and Washington, D.C., were also at the top of that list.)

“I don’t want to trash Ohio, but it’s hard to see Ohio as a winner and Louisiana and Colorado as losers,” said Terry Ryan, vice president for Ohio programs and policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank. “For those of us who live and breathe education reform and are on the ground in these states, it’s clear that Louisiana is night and day ahead of us on some of these issues. I thought this competition was supposed to reward states that are bold and innovative.

How did this happen?  Today’s WSJ points out:

Precisely what propelled each state into the winner's circle wasn't clear because the Education Department declined to release final score cards until Wednesday. The department used a panel of outside judges to score each application based on 19 criteria, including willingness to open charter schools and efforts to link teacher evaluations to student achievement. States were graded on a scale of zero to 500 points. Judges were selected by the department for their expertise in education policy. Their names have not been made public….

…jilted states and other observers questioned the validity of a scoring system that left out states such as Colorado and Louisiana—which many had considered shoo-ins based on their reform efforts—while awarding money to Hawaii, which made few changes to strengthen its application. Some observers noted that seven of the 10 winners have governors who are Democrats.  

Critics also pointed to a clear tilt toward Eastern states with big cities and states in which teacher's unions signed on to the applications….

Alex Da Silva, spokesman for the Hawaii Board of Education, said his state deserved to win, pointing to the academic growth students are making, quick adoption of the standards adopted by 35 other states and the District of Columbia, and a promise to tie teacher evaluations to student gains. Hawaii was in such dire financial straits last year that it cut the school year from 180 to 163 days, he said….

Hawaii politicos have spent a lifetime snagging federal dollars and then doing what they please, so it is illogical and unreasonable to assume that RTTT will be any different. 

The HSTA’s worthless signature was a key to the DoE’s RTTT application being ranked third in the nation, how will they undo it?  A clue comes from the reliable DoE/HSTA mouthpiece Star-Advertiser which headlined Hawaii’s RTTT success as if it were all about the money: “Hawaii will get $75 million in.”  In a follow up article titled “$75 Million payday” the Star-Advertiser discusses ways to fudge and finesse the requirements to tie teachers’ pay and job security to student performance:

The biggest challenge in the Race to the Top reforms, officials say, will likely be hammering out a performance-based teacher contract that will evaluate teachers, in part, on their students' progress over the course of the school year.  (lots of wiggle room in those two little words, “in part”)

Student growth could be measured by test scores, but their progress will also likely include other factors….  (other factors)

Lois Yamauchi, a parent of two children in public schools and a member of Save Our Schools, a(n agit-prop) group (of Progressive Democrat activists) formed to protest (assign blame to Lingle for) the furloughs (as part of an effort to get Abercrombie elected), said the Race to the Top award is a "nice success after a year that's been so difficult for many educators and families."

She added that she is looking forward to the reforms planned as part of Race to the Top, especially more emphasis on supporting teachers and moving away from putting too much weight on test scores as an indicator of how a school is doing. (Move away from test scores.)

Valerie Sonoda, president of PTSA-Hawaii, said nobody can say for certain whether the big reforms the DOE envisions will actually come to pass. (That’s OK, as long as we get the money.)

Anybody who speaks of “moving away from test scores” is working to undermine reform and protect the status quo.

KHON reports:  

Part of the reform includes a teacher evaluation system -- 50 percent based on student growth, another 50 percent based on teacher effectiveness and teacher growth. (Define "growth".)

The Hawaii State Teachers Association shared its perspective on the challenges of implementing the plan required to get the federal money.

"Teachers are quite apprehensive. They’re definitely looking for the support to make it happen. You can’t just throw it out there without providing teacher support,” said Al Nagasako of HSTA.

"Apprehension is because we need to work on things. And if people were not afraid, if there were not risks involved we would have done this a long time ago,” said Matayoshi.

The HSTA says its negotiating a new pay system based on the initial plans for the evaluation process.

"We're at the table with the employer, which gives us the leg up. We want to be part of the plan but we've got to make sure that the teachers have their rights and working conditions covered,” said Nagasako.

Notice the words “Kamehameha Schools” and “Waianae Coast” don’t come up in this coverage?

Is RTTT a “farce”?  Watch that “new pay system.” It will tell the entire story.   

---30---

WSJ: Race to the Top Winners Interactive Chart

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