Race to Top States Dinged, But Not on Common Core

By Catherine Gewertz — January 10, 2012 2 min read
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The first-round Race to the Top winners are facing the music this week, as U.S. Ed Secretary Arne Duncan delivers their year-one progress reports. Some are getting pats on the back for being on track with nice progress, while others are getting a round scolding for lagging, particularly on their efforts to design new teacher-evaluation systems based on student progress. Our Michele McNeil explains it all for you in a blog post and a story.

Those of you who track the common standards and assessments will be interested to know that this was not a big area of criticism when Duncan sized up how the RTT winners are doing. For the most part, according to the reports, states seem to be doing OK in this area. (The list of state-by-state reports is posted on ED’s website.)

Take Delaware, for instance. In its report, the Education Department said that even though the state was encountering some delays in implementing a new teacher-evaluation system, it had made “significant strides” toward reaching many of its goals.

It noted, in particular, the work Delaware has done to train its teachers on the common core. (In a glowing press release, Delaware made sure everyone knew that it had reached 79 percent of its teachers with that training.) The Ed Department noted the sample units and lesson plans Delaware posted online for teachers. And it noted the state’s progress transitioning to new assessments, such as its plans to embed common-core-like items in its own state tests soon, and its decision to require all 11th graders to take the SAT as a college-readiness exam.

In the not-too-surprising category, Massachusetts comes out pretty rosy in the federal report. It gets pats for curriculum frameworks and model units for the common core, and for proceeding with professional development on the new standards even though it struggled with a delay hiring a PD coordinator. The department also noted that Massachusetts’ statewide assessments will be based on the common core in 2012-13, which, I’m guessing, is far earlier than most states.

Even states that are in the biggest trouble with the department over their unsatisfactory progress appeared to look pretty good to the department on their standards-and-assessment work.

Hawaii has content specialists working with all its principals across the state, who then pass along their knowledge through “tri-level” professional development, the report says. It provided training to teachers in grades K-2, and 11-12, with plans to move to all the other grades within the next two years. It also moved to online, computer-adaptive assessments, the report says.

New York, which also came in for harsh criticism, was commended for its implementation work on the common core. The department mentioned its training of “network teams” to get this job done, and its plan to “build sequenced, spiraled, content-rich statewide curriculum modules,” even though procurement snafus delayed this a bit. The department did note, however, that New York continues to face challenges implementing the common core because of wide variations in the size and capacity of its districts.

Florida did get dinged for delays in some areas of common-standards implementation, such as in getting contracts for interim and formative assessments.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.