« Here's What I Don't Get... | Main | Does Value-Added Really Add Value to the Debate Over Teacher Evaluation »

RTT and the Problem with Trying to Do Too Many Things at Once

An awful lot of ink's been spilled on RTT in the past week. But I think the abundant commentary is missing an important point: RTT's diffuse focus--across four reform priorities, with multiple different criteria within each of those priorities and additional criteria outside those priorities, too--and how those multiple competing priorities affected the outcomes.

Press reports have tended to focus on RTT's support for teacher performance evaluations and charter schools--but those two issues together account for barely 20% of the total available RTT points. Under the RTT application criteria, there were some 40 different ways for states to win--or lose--points. One would never know from media accounts that states could win or lose points for their plans to share data with researchers (6 points), provide professional development and support to teachers and principals (10 points for plans to provide support and 10 points for plans to continuously improve its effectiveness), or ensure equitable distribution of teachers in high-need subject areas (10 points), or for the extent to which their school finance systems provide equitable funding to high-poverty districts and schools (8 points). RTT's incentives for states to adopt Common Core standards and aligned assessments are widely known, but states could also receive up to 20 points for their plans to support the transition to enhanced standards and assessments.

That complexity and diffuse focus makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly how a state won or lost. For example, New York, Maryland and Hawai'i, whose high RTT rankings surprised many observers, got full or near-full points for "supporting the transition to enhanced standards and assessments," while reform darlings Louisiana and Colorado both came in near the bottom on this item, each losing 3.8 points on it. Maryland, Ohio, New York, and Hawai'i also got more of the 20 points available for "providing effective support to teachers and principals," than any state except Georgia, while Louisiana lost 6.2 points on this item (Had Louisiana gotten full points on this item and one other point somewhere else, it would have beat out Ohio for the 10th RTT grant). Take a look at the many issues in RTT that are not sexy reform hot buttons, and you'll often find surprise winners Maryland, New York, and Hawai'i near the top on these items, picking up a point or so over reform favorites like Colorado and Louisiana. And those points add up. (To help folks analyze these issues in greater detail, I've created a spreadsheet of all the finalist states' scores on the 60 different RTT areas and sub-areas. Since there are so many items in this spreadsheet, it probably contains a few typos--if you find them, let me know in comments so I can fix it.)

Many observers believe RTT's outcomes raise concerns about the reliability of scoring in high-stakes competitive grant programs. I think the steps Andy Rotherham outlines here probably make sense. We should also try to learn from successful competitive grant programs in other areas of government.

But I think that an equally important lesson in RTT is the perils of trying to cram too many different reform focuses into a single competitive grant program. It's easy to see why the administration wanted RTT to look at states' comprehensive reform strategies and support for education, and why they wanted to include a range of issues that appealed to both the school reform crowd (teacher evaluation, charters) and more traditional education reformers (professional development, equitable distribution of teachers and funding). But, ultimately, that diffuse focus--and the difference between that focus and top-level administration rhetoric focused on specific reforms--played a role in producing outcomes that didn't match expectations. I would imagine the diffuse focus also played a role in some of the scoring issues that have been raised, since it made scoring a lot more complicated. RTT would have been more effective in rewarding state officials who took politically risky reforms in key areas if it had focused more narrowly on those areas. I'm also a bit concerned about the potential impact of RTT's focus on doing everything at once on states' capacity to truly implement the reforms they promised.

A number of observers have said the RTT outcomes don't match the administration's reform priorities. I'm not sure if that's true, or if the outcomes are more a reflection that the administration's priorities themselves are diffuse. If so, that could have important implications going into ESEA reauthorization--and reform-y types could again find themselves looking at outcomes they didn't expect.
RTT Finalists 2.xlsx

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login |  Register
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

Archives

Categories

Technorati

Technorati search

» Blogs that link here

Tags

AFT
Alex Grodd
Ana Menezes
Andrew Kelly
appropriations
ARRA
Aspire Public Schools
authorizing
Better Lesson
Bill Ferguson
certification
charter schools
child care
children's literature
choice
civil rights
CLASS
Core Knowledge
curriculum
D.C.
democracy
early childhood
Early Learning Challenge Grant
economics
elections
English language learners
entrepreneurship
equity
Evan Stone
fathers
finance
fix poverty first
Hailly Korman
harlem children's zone
HEA
Head Start
head start
health care
Higher Education
home-based child care
homeschooling
housing
How we think and talk about pre-k evidence
i3
IDEA
income inequality
instruction
international
Jason Chaffetz
Jen Medbery
just for fun
Justin Cohen
Kaya Henderson
Kenya
kindergarten
KIPP
Kirabo Jackson
Kwame Brown
land use
LearnBoost
libertarians
LIFO
literacy
Los Angeles
Louise Stoney
Mark Zuckerberg
Maryland
Massachusetts
Memphis
Michelle Rhee
Michigan
Mickey Muldoon
Neerav Kingsland
New Jersey
New Orleans
NewtownReaction
Next Gen Leaders
Next Gen leaders
nonsense
NSVF Summit
NYT
organizing
parent engagement
parenting
parking
pell grants
politics
poverty
PreK-3rd
presidents
principals
productivity
QRIS
Race to the Top
Rafael Corrales
redshirting
regulation
religion
rick hess
Roxanna Elden
RTT
san francisco
school choice
social services
SOTU
special education
Stephanie Wilson
stimulus
story
Sydney Morris
tax credits
Teacher Prep
teachers
technology
Title I
unions
urban issues
Vincent Gray
vouchers
Waiting for Superman
Washington
West Virginia
zoning