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Digging Through States' Race to Top Bids

notebookpic.jpgFrom My Notebook:

Colleague Stephen Sawchuk and I have a story up on edweek.org that takes a closer look at some states' Race to the Top applications, particularly the details that might make them stand out from their competitors. You'll find interesting highlights from Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Louisiana.

But we couldn't possibly shoehorn all the worthwhile elements of every state's proposal into the story, so some notable tidbits didn't make it out of my notes. Here are few worth highlighting:

In California, parents will play a direct role in triggering the restructuring of low-performing schools that otherwise may not be tapped for an overhaul by education leaders. A new law allows parents to force districts to undertake one of the four turnaround models outlined in the Race to the Top rules if at least 50 percent of them sign a petition. And their influence doesn't stop there. They will also have a say in which turnaround option they want for the school. Opponents, including the powerful California Teachers Association, say the law amounts to a giveaway to charter schools, given the close ties between the Parent Revolution--which created and lobbied for the parent trigger--is closely aligned with Green Dot Public Schools, a high-profile Los Angeles network of charter high schools. But, at least initially, the trigger will be limited to 75 schools statewide.

Rhode Island turned in some aggressive proposals around teacher assignment (See pages 115-116 in the application). Once the state establishes a new evaluation system that links growth in student achievement to teacher performance, students who are taught in one year by an instructor who earns an "ineffective" rating must be assigned to a teacher with an "effective" rating the next year. And by the 2012-13 school year, districts will be banned from assigning any teachers who are not rated "effective" or "highly effective" to high-poverty, high-minority, or low-performing schools.

And in Massachusetts, lawmakers passed major education legislation that should certainly make its application get some notice, especially for the stronger authority it gives to the state education commissioner to intervene in low-performing schools when local district leaders and their union counterparts can't agree on issues such as replacing teachers and lengthening the school day.

A few of us here at EdWeek are going to keep slogging through these applications, looking for the good, the bad, and the ugly. Feel free to direct us.

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