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Teacher Elements of Final Race to the Top Guidelines

The final Race to the Top guidelines are here! There are some interesting new details on the effective-teacher policies. And of the four pillars or "assurances" in the economic-stimulus legislation, teacher effectiveness, it turns out, gets the most weight (28 percent) in the scoring process.

Let's dig in.

The first thing I noticed here is that it is not an absolute requirement that states gain teachers'-union approval of the state RTTT proposals. As colleague Michele McNeil writes in her story this morning, teachers' unions are just one of a number of stakeholders that states are supposed to get to sign off on the application.

The definition for "effective teachers" has changed, and as Teacher Beat predicted not long ago, the guidelines now explicitly state that teacher evaluations must include "multiple measures" in addition to basing a "significant part" of the evaluation on test scores or other measures of student growth.

The supplemental measures the guidelines recommend include observation-based assessments of performance and evidence of leadership roles, such as serving as a mentor or the leader of a professional-learning community.

But the notice still does not define what a "significant part" means with respect to test scores. That could, potentially, be problematic. (Is 10 percent significant? 50 percent?)

The teacher-quality criteria that will by far garner the most points for a state is by putting into place systems to tie the results of teacher and principal evaluations to decisions involving professional development, compensation, promotion, tenure-granting, and dismissal.

In a new element that is almost sure to upset folks at teachers' colleges, the scoring criteria direct reviewers to give more points to a state that permits alternative routes to operate outside of schools of education than those that restrict such routes to schools of education.

The American Federation of Teachers has a few interesting things to say on the final criteria. First, it seemed pleased with the changes to the teacher-evaluation language and even seems to feel that its input was instrumental in shaping it. Then there's this paragraph:

"We know that many states have begun the application process, but that not all are involving teachers and their unions in a meaningful way. We take Education Department officials at their word when they say they will look for meaningful collaboration in the state Race to the Top applications."

Randi Weingarten threw a fit about the lack of attention to collaborative union-managment reforms in the SHMC report earlier this month, so to be honest, I expected something a bit more, well, colorful, from her on the Race to the Top guidelines. After all, there's still a lot of attention to using test scores to measure teacher performance here. And one of these state applications could presumably still get funded without having any union people sign off on it. (Where's the collaboration meter when you need it??)

On the other hand, I know she'll be closely watching the state application process. And, as New Teacher Center blogger-staffer Liam Goldrick points out in this intelligent item, a lot of implementation power lies in the hands of local unions.

Fasten your seatbelts...

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