Last updated December 22, 2011

RTTT Update and Overview

Documents, links and resources
DSEA on Race to the Top: Seizing the Opportunity

Also signing this MOU will be Superintendent Michael Thomas, at home recovering from knee surgery.

Dec. 22, 2011.... The plans for the six new Performance Zone schools in DE along with their negotiated Memoranda of Understanding are due December 23 at the Dept. of Education. Pictured here is the signing of the negotiated MOU for Dover High School: (from left) School Board President Phillip Martino, Jr.; Rod Fesel, president of CEA and a guidance counselor at South Dover E.S.; and DSEA UniServ director Toby Paone.

Representing CEA on the negotiating team were Dover High's T.H. Leighty, Lesley Louder, Nancy Vaughan, Ron Berry and Julius Robinson.
The highlights of the MOU for Dover High include "curriculum leaders," true teacher leaders on the ground; more time for kids, without sacrificing any student or teacher time; and the creation of a 9th and 10th grade Jump Start Academy. The Academy will provide one week of intense instruction and initiation to high school before school starts in August.

The other new 2011-2012 Performance Zone Schools in DE are: Bancroft E.A. (Christina); Lewis E.S., Marbrook E.S. and Stanton Middle School (Red Clay) and Laurel Middle School.

September 2011: States may now apply for waivers from some provisions of NCLB, including that all students must be proficient in 2014. Yes, Delaware will apply in Feb. 2012.

Before that, Secretary Lowery is having public hearings for public review of their application and public comment. Their application does include information about the teacher evaluation system including use of student test scores. These hearings will be held:
Jan. 4, 6-8pm, Gilliam Conference Center, 77 Reeds Way, New Castle, beyind the NCC Government Center
Jan. 11, 6-8pm, Kent County Gov't Bldg., Room 220, Dover
Jan. 19, 6-8pm, Sussex County Gov't Building #2, The Circle, Georgetown.

The public is invited.

The latest on DPASII-Revised, an interim/pilot year for 2011-2012

January 7, 2011...Partnership Zone (PZ) schools submit plans for making radical changes to their schools beginning September 2011.

The four Delaware schools designated as Partnership Zone schools, schools that will receive additional money to improve the tests results of their students, have submitted their plans for change. These plans have been approved by the Delaware Dept. of Education, as required, and, in addition, the local teacher contracts have been changed for the Partnership Zone schools in Christina and New Castle County Vo-Tech to allow for flexibility in hours and transfers. Delaware's Race to the Top guidelines require collaboration on the PZ school plans as well as an agreement with the local union on how the contract will or will not change, for those schools, for the four years of the agreement.

You can view the plans on the district web sites:
Glasgow High School, Christina School District
Stubbs Elementary School, Christina School District
Howard High School of Technology, New Castle County Vo-Tech School District
Positive Outcomes Charter School

Stubbs Elementary School will adopt a STEM program (Science, Technology, Mathematics) program next year.
Glasgow High School will form three academies from which its students may choose: STEM, Business and Humanities & Arts.
Howard High School is concentrating on building teacher and administrative leaders, with small learning communities with shared planning time so that they can identify students in trouble early and, in general, better connect to students. They also will created a targeted professional development plan; realign resources; engage families and the community; and create an internal accountability system.
Positive Outcomes has developed a "Partnership Plan," using various resources to change their curriculum (Southern Delaware Professional Development Center); leadership training through the Delaware Academy of School Leadership; two day a week real-world interships and project-based experienced for their students through a partnership with "Big Picture Learning"; and several other significant partners.

Delaware's Race to the Top Grant allows for six more low performing schools to be named as part of the Partnership Zone. Sec. Lillian Lowery has indicated that these six additional schools will be named at the end of the school year.

Howard Weinberg, exec. director of the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA), which represents the public school teachers in the 19 school districts, has said that he is proud of our local associations and the collaboration they undertook to help develop these ambitious plans. "We're looking forward to a sea change in how we all work together."


August 31, 2010...
Four schools named to "Performance Zone," name of group of schools that must choose a transformation model, using extra Race to the Top Funds to improve student achievement

Stubbs E.S., Wilmington, Christina S.D.
Glasgow High School, Newark, Christina S.D.
Howard High School of Technology, Wilmington, New Castle County Vo-Tech S.D.
Positive Outcomes Charter School, Camden

DSEA staff will work closely with school staff at Stubbs, Glasgow and Howard over the next 90 days to support their efforts as they prepare comprehensive school improvement plans. As we have said before, we favor the Transformation Model over the other three change models from which these schools must choose: closing the school and moving students to other district schools; changing to a charter school; or firing half of the staff. The Transformation Model requires recent new school leadership and collaborating on a substantial change in curriculum, community outreach and involvement, scheduling, and increased learning time. .

As was pointed out in the News Journal, a study released August 30, 2010 from the Center on Education Policy in Washington, D.C. has found that there is no one model is, in and of itself, effective in helping low-performing schools. We have said many times that of the four models, we prefer the Transformation Model, especially given no evidence that the other three models would make any meaningful change.

Collaboration among partners, community still key

"As joint partners to the school improvement effort, school staff and administration representatives must work collaboratively to ensure that the resulting plans will work to improve student learning," said DSEA President Diane Donohue in a news release.

"DSEA will work at each step of the way with the school staffs to ensure that their ideas and views on school improvement are fully considered as educational partners in the development of these important plans and subsequent efforts," Donohue added.

"The voice of the professional educator is essential for practical, workable plans to be developed. We are confident that the respective school and district administrations as well as the state Department of Education will continue the collaborative efforts that have characterized Delaware Race-to-the-Top efforts to date."

July 12, 2010.... District plans for implementing Delaware's district Race to the Top Funds are due from DoE to the feds now. As soon as they are posted, we will link to them here.

Sec. Lowery rethinks deadlines; will submit plans to feds as they are, with indication that district teams will continue developing details during the school year; that there was not enough time to do the quality of work required.
Lowery also will allow two 45-minute blocks/week of common planning time instead of one 90-minute block.

How much is each district and charter school to get in RTTT funds during Year One?

RTTT Scope of Work teams find it's really a Race to the Finish
Lowery gives flexibility on 90 min./collaborative time

June 14, 2010...While Scope of Work plans are for the most part nearing completition, there are some districts where coming to agreement on finding 90 minutes of required collaborative time has put a strain on their deliberations.

In a memo released today, Sec. Lowery gave everyone some latitude:
I have heard your concerns about the required 90 minutes of weekly collaborative time. Some of you have worked with your teacher leaders to plan implementation of the 90-minute block K-12 as soon as August 2010.  Congratulations.  However, other LEAs face very realistic challenges, and I truly appreciate the time, thought, and energy that each of you has put into meeting the requirement.  We all need for any reform strategy to be inclusive and sustainable.  To that end, in order to be responsive to your constraints and feedback, I am adding some new flexibilities to the requirement.

First, I am willing to approve plans that divide the 90 minutes into multiple blocks, so long as the blocks are at least 45 minutes long. Second, I will approve plans that replace the 90 minutes every week with 180 minutes every other week.   Lastly, while the Race to the Top plan requires that the 90 minutes be in place by January 2011, I understand with the complexities of scheduling, you may not begin your collaborative time until August of 2011.

All of that said, I do believe that 90 minutes of collaborative time in a single block will be most effective for educators, and DDOE will not be able to guarantee the same level of data coach support to those LEAs that break up their collaborative time (unless, for example, two different 45 minute groups meet back to back, providing a 90 minute block for facilitation). I strongly encourage LEAs who have found a scheduling option that allows for 90 consecutive minutes to leave their plans as they are now.

Thank you again for the tremendous effort, and as always, please let us know if you have any questions.

With much appreciation and respect,
Lillian M. Lowery, Ed. D.
Secretary of Education
Delaware Department of Education

May 4, 2010... Sec. Lowery tells District RTTT Teams: "This isn't just another grant, but whole system reform"

Smyrna High School.... Superintendents, School Board members, Local Association officers and negotiations chairs, and DSEA staff were called by the Dept. of Education to "... set a clear path going forward" to prepare their "scope of work" documents which are due to DoE June 18.

There were many questions unanswered, especially how to find the time between now and next week, when first parts of the document are due."Bring your initial thinking on vision and goals to your county meetings next week." Next week, DoE will have three day-long meetings, one per county, when perhaps the teams can get questions answered, answers needed to figure out where their priority work should be.

Monday May 10: Kent County 9am-4pm at Delaware State University
Tuesday May 11: NCC 9am-4pm at the Eden Support Center in Bear
Thursday May 13 9am-4pm at a location still to be determined

Using school data as well as understanding a school's experience and expertise, each Scope of Work plan must address the 12 areas in DE's RTTT application, but choose four to six priority areas to create the greatest gains in student outcomes. When Lowery indicated that determining the Vision and Goals would be a straightforward process, evident, not needing discussion with the local union, DSEA President Diane Donohue successfully persuaded her to state otherwise. As Donohue told the group, "We agreed to a collaborative process. And there may certainly be initial disagreement over what the district's priorities should be." Lowery didn't disagree; and repeated that this is to be a collaborative process, with the union at the table. "But we shouldn't squander this opportunity. We don't want to get into a quagmire."

The Vision and Goals should deal with how your district will look different in 2014. Priorities Overview should deal with the what, why, how; Goals and Leading Indicators should be ambitious; Capacity to Implement and Sustain should include success factors and possible risks; And the work itself should be clearly expressed.
DoE is giving each district a "template" to use to describe the actual "work." She also urged everyone to document what they do along the way so we will all know what did and did not work: how we got to where we are.

How much money will each school district get? If your district got 5% of the state's Title I funds last year, it will get 5% of the RTTT money available for districts.

The 35 data coaches that the state will hire will be deployed to every school (in other words, data coaches will be shared). High needs schools (the top quartile of high povery/high minority schools) will receive approximately $700,000 more at each school, and will together pay for half the cost of their data coach, using these extra RTTT funds.

Work begins putting details on local school districtEric Peterson of Wellstone ACTION! leads local union teams in preparing for collaboration on RTTT Scope of Work for their districts. plans for using RTTT funds

DSEA training leaders April 30 and May 18
DoE bringing all Scope of Work TEAMS together Tuesday, May 4, at Smyrna High School, 9-noon

It is officially called the Scope of Work, or SOW - the plan that each school district in Delaware must develop with its stakeholders to define how they will carry out the State's Scope of Work as defined in Delaware's Race to the Top application.

The local teacher's association is part of that stakeholder group, a big part. Each local's RTTT Planning Team will include their association president or designee and one other person. DSEA''s UniServ directors will be involved as well. They have, in fact, been working closely together to prepare to help guide their locals through this process, including anticipating areas where collective bargaining will be necessary.

In addition to meetings being called by the state Dept. of Education, DSEA is holding two full days of training for the local association leaders who will comprise their school Distric''s SOW Teams.

The first one was Friday, April 30; the second is Tuesday, May 18. For both, we have contracted with Eric Peterson of Wellstone Action! out of Minnesota, a top-notch group of trainers and organizers who help organizations such as ours mobilize and organize. Some of you may remember Peterson at Summer Leadership Academy, and his colleague, at WAR last year.

In brief, all local EA leaders getting together, hearing the same thing, preparing for the first meetings was the best thing about April 30. And they have a strategy for the first meetings, based on interests. Lots of questions were answered. So from now on, local officers are your knowledge base. Look to them and all DSEA communications devises for updates and your thoughts and questions going forward.

DoE is holding its first meeting to prepare for SOW next Tuesday, May 4, 9-noon, at Smyrna High School for the RTTT Planning Teams from all districts.

It is for entire teams, not just superintendents. The purpose of the meeting is to review the statewide SOW, to share updated budget numbers, to distribute guiding principles and strategies to be included in individual SOW, and to answer any questions and hear any suggestions that people may have related to planning expectations.

Then, DoE is holding county-wide meetings for all of the RTTT Scope of Work Teams to start the working of defining local school district work. The dates will be announced at the May 4 meeting.

March 29, 2010.... Delaware to receive approx. $100 million in RTTT funds over four years

In a surprise move today, U.S. Sec. of Education Arne Duncan announced that only Delaware and Tennessee will receive Race to the Top funds during this first round. (Second round applications are due June 1 for other states wishing to apply.)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan phoned DSEA President Donohue this morning to give her the great news, and to say that Delaware's presentation, "Blew us away." He noted that Delaware received the most points for its application and in-person presentation of all of the states applying for this first round of RTTT funding. Sixteen states were named finalists from among 40 that applied; only Delaware and Tennessee will receive funding during this first round.
Thanks to collaboration, a willingness to find a fair system for using and defining "student growth," a track record for innovation and closing the achievement gap, Delaware scored the most points on its Race to the Top application.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Education web site, "Delaware will receive approximately $100 million and Tennessee $500 million to implement their comprehensive school reform plans over the next four years. As with any federal grant program, budgets will be finalized after discussions between the grantees and the Department, and the money will be distributed over time as the grantees meet established benchmarks.
"The U.S. Department of Education will have about $3.4 billion available for the second phase of the Race to the Top competition."  -- for states that did not apply in Phase I, or did apply and did not receive funding.

For the breaking stories, click here for the Washington Post.
New York Times
Education Week

When do we start work on "meeting, confering and collaborating" on each district's "scope of work?" 

We are asking now exactly when the 90-day clock starts ticking.

That's right: each district and its local teacher union has 90 days to meet, confer, collaborate and, where necessary (where your contract buts up against a proposed change), negotiate what they will do with Race to the Top Funding to meet Delaware's education goals. The state's overall Scope of Work as defined in its application can be found here.

Each district, again, in partnership with their teacher union and other education stakeholders, will meet to determine how the State’s Scope of Work can best be implemented for their students.

In general, here are the four goals/"assurances" defined by Race to the Top:
"The Race to the Top state competition is designed to reward states that are leading the way in comprehensive, coherent, statewide education reform across four key areas:

  • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace;
  • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals how to improve instruction;
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
  • Turning around their lowest-performing schools" (known in RTTT language as Performance Zone schools).

Delaware Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery is slated to announce the Race to the Top Performance Zone schools this summer. These will be 3-5 of the state's lowest-performing schools that will be required to choose a "turnaround" model. Both Sec. of Education Lilian Lowery and DSEA favor the Transformation Model, whereby the school would have new leadership (unless the principal was new and had already begun leading  significant change) and be required to implement both operational and curricular changes.

What is Race to the Top?

Scope of Work handed out to district teams
Costs/Budget for RTTT May 2010
DoE advice regarding Approach to District Scope of Work
Scope of Work Resource Charts from DoE
Delaware's RTTT application

Bonuses are part of RTTT
What are School Improvement Grants (SIG)?
Delaware Dept. of Education Strategic Action Plan upon which DE's RTTT application is based Dec 01 09
DSEA Comparison of RTTT, School Improvement Grants and DoE's Strategic Plan
Timeline RTTT and SIG from March 2010 through August 2011

Timeline RTTT and SIG from September 2011 through August 2013Comparison of RTTT, School Improvement Grants and DoE's Strategic Plan
DSEA White Paper on the RTTT guidelines and DoE's Education Strategic Plan
DSEA Letter of Support for Delaware's RTTT application
RTTT Exec. Summary on Final Application Guidelines from USDOE 11-13.09
RTTT Final Application Guidelines from the US Dept. of Education Nov 13, 2009

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of State of Delaware showing what DoE, State Board of Education, school districts, DSEA and local associations are agreeing to work on collaboratively in support of the State's RTTT Application
"Scope of Work" document giving more details about DoE's Strategic Plan and the work to be done

Delaware Regulations that change Educator Accountability January 2010

School Improvement Grants Overview: DSEA Powerpoint
Four school change/intervention models and activities required of each

NEA Talking Points on RTTT Application Guidelines, Nov. 13, 2009
NEA News Release on RTTT Application Guidelines, Nov. 13, 2009

SIGnificant (from
by Tim Barchak, DSEA's dir. of legislation and political organizing

The School Improvement Grant (SIG) program has been significantly increased with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds. SIG dollars for Delaware will amount to over $10 million for up to three years of activity, although the majority of the funds need to be expended in the first year to implement plans.

SIG is for "persistently low-achieving" Title 1 and Title 1 eligible schools who will be implementing one of the 4 interventions outlined in Race To The Top. Those interventions are closing, closing and reopening as a charter, "Turn Around" which involves replacing 50% of current staff, and "Transformation" which involves an aggressive plan to change the school.

Schools in Delaware will most probably choose the Transformation model, and well they should. Closing is simply a shell game in which you must absorb the student body into other buildings with all the expense and dislocation. Closing and reopening as a charter does not solve anything. When charters deal with populations without being allowed to "cream" students, they do not necessarily perform better than community public schools. Turn Around is an obvious "blame the staff" model or at least, "blame half the staff" model. Finally, Transformation will allow for educators and their administrations to implement change that works.

SIG could mean cash worth $50,000 to $2 million for a single school. Tier 1 schools (probably 5 in the beginning) are likely to be doubly challenged and blessed. Tier 1 SIG recipients will probably also be Partnership Zone schools under the Race To The Top grant. Those combined grant dollars could mean an astounding $3 million for a school.

SIG money is flexible. It does not all have to be spent on yet another curriculum or pedagogy method or professional development model. SIG money can actually be spent on the health and well being of children. For example, schools could offer before and after care; before and after meals; a dental clinic; or literacy instruction for parents. These are just a few examples of what an innovative district could do with SIG, because SIG recognizes some of the socio-economic challenges that are inherent in persistently low-achieving schools.

Educators are in for quite a ride of change over the next couple of years. At least there will be significant money available for many of the innovations.

Bonuses are part of DE's RTTT application

Delaware's $107 million RTTT application finished, on its way to D.C.

Jan. 19, 2010 - DSEA Pres. Diane Donohue speaks to reporters at Gov. Markell's news conference re submitting the state's RTTT application.January 19, 2010....As the state's RTTT application was on its way to D.C., Governor Markell held a press conference to announce the news and read the cover letter he included with the ambitious application.

"We intend to lead this race, with our promise that every student will be ready for a career or higher education. Delaware has a strong story to tell." He also mentioned, as did Secretary Lowery, the courageous leadership of DSEA President Diane Donohue. "Many of DSEA's resolutions are embodied in this application - professional development, collaborative planning time, parental and community involvement. There are challenges ahead, certainly, but the key will be continuing to work together, to make working conditions and student learning conditions better, and moving education forward." The biggest challenge, of course, is definining "student improvement" in a fair, effective way, since that definition will effect so much related to both educator and school accountability and its consequences.

Said Markell: "People coming together, who have different perspectives, keeping focussed on kids, was our unifying theme."

According to RTTT guidelines, Delaware would qualify for between $20 and $75 million, but has applied for $107 million. If successful, state and education officials will be invited to D.C. in March to make an in-person presentation before a final decision on the grant is made.

Bonuses to" Highly Effective" teachers, in high-needs schools (high poverty or high-minority schools), and more money if they teach in hard-to-fill positions are part of Delaware's application (explained in the "Scope of Work" document) for Race to the Top Funds: $8,500 for Highly Effective teachers in high-needs schools; and $10,000 if they also teach a "critical subject matter," i.e., special education or middle or high school math or science.

These incentive bonuses are designed to attract teachers to critical needs schools as well as reward teachers who are already there. The exact requirements for earning a rating of "Highly Effective" are still to be defined: DSEA will be part of a group to work on the many definitions needed around "student performance" in order for a revised evaluation system to begin in the fall of 2011.

According to DoE Secretary Dr. Lillian Lowery, these sums meet the definition of "viable incentive amount" for Delaware, as defined by research done by the McKinsey Research Corp.

Secretary Lowery has included in Delaware's application, funds for a working conditions survey, a project that DSEA has advocated for for many years. She agrees that working conditions are as important to educators as their compensation, sometimes even more.

"Delaware recognizes that differentiated pay is only one component of retaining highly-effective teachers in high-need schools, and that significant efforts must be taken to improve schools' teaching and learning environments. The DDOE will commission a statewide Teaching and Learning Conditions Survey, which will be analyzed to identify the most critical issues, and potential courses of redress, for improving school environments.

" Delaware also recognizes that school environments are not shaped by students and educators alone, and will work to improve community and parental involvement in schools. The State will encourage participating school districts to use RTTT funding to engage families and communities effectively, in supporting the academic success of students. The State further supports the Rodel Foundation's initiative to create community-oriented schools that meet students' social, emotional, and health needs. For the lowest performing schools, the State will require, as part of Partnership Zone negotiations, that schools create on-going mechanisms for parental and community involvement, and that the new school model be community-oriented."

January 13, 2010....DSEA President Donohue sends letter of support to Sec. of Education Lillian Lowery regarding DE's RTTT application

We understand that all local teacher union presidents have also signed the "Memorandum of Understanding," giving their support to Delaware's RTTT application, which is due in Washington, D.C. on January 19.

Donohue seeks members for DSEA Career Ladder Task Force

"This all began last summer, with work with DoE and other education stakeholders regarding the areas of reform identified in the Race to the Top application guidelines. We then crafted a well-researched White Paper on our positions, a paper that helped us immensely as we talked and discussed these critical issues and possible changes with legislators and members," says DSEA President Diane Donohue. This federal competitive funding program could bring up to $75 million to Delaware’s public schools.

Also making a difference in the final Strategic Plan for Education were the discussions our members had with Sec. Lowery and the Governor during their visits to schools this fall. Thank you!

In December and early January, the DSEA Executive Board met and discussed the DoE Strategic Plan and RTTT application and what was needed for us to support them both.

President Donohue also convened meetings of local union leadership teams to review all the information available, what changes we were successful in making, and to encourage them to sign the State's Memorandum of Understanding (of how the work would be completed should Delaware be successful in getting its grant). The more support a state has for its application, the greater its chances of receiving the grant. Changes strongly suggested by the Kent/Sussex local union leadership teams, very concerned about their districts understanding that the Obama Administration and Delaware's DoE required collaboration, not just information sharing, were made by Sec. Lowery to the final MOU document.

There are changes in Delaware regulations regarding Evaluation (DPASII) as well as School Accountability that are at the moment expected to take effect in 2011. We have until then to work out the critical details."Multiple measures" of looking at student improvement are to be part of the Delaware regulations.
You can see the proposed regulations here.

What's the bottom line?

How can we make "student improvement" a bigger part of educator evaluation and school accountability?What does it mean? How much is enough? what about people in untested areas? How we figure that out between now and Sept. of 2011 will be at the heart of changes to our education system in the next few years.

DSEA was very successful in improving its collaboration with Sec. Lowery and the Dept. of Education: there is now language in the MOU that requires both "multiple measures" when looking at defining student improvement, as well as collatoration.
And, local unions will collaborate with their districtsto make any changes regarding the work associated with the state's Race to the Top Grant.

There is also new, strong language requiring that districts of the five schools that will be iidentified as lower performing must use the collective bargaining process before any changes in working conditions are made. There is even specific language regarding how any impasses will be resolved.

Thanks to DSEA involvement, the state’s Strategic Plan (upon which Delaware's RTTT application will be based) has been significantly modified, for the better. It now iincludes, but did not include in its first drafts, support for change advanced by DSEA in our White Paper:

  • Schools identified to receive additional grant money (most likely five schools initially, and up to ten schools over four years) among those that are persistently low-achieving) will negotiate any changes to the working conditions in their contract.
  • Providing time during the work day for effective collaboration
  • Providing support for parental involvement and community outreach programs
  • Keeping “multiple measures” in the DPASII process for the Student Improvement Component, and not just using a single test, or only state tests
  • Providing funding for a “working conditions” survey and study to make sure that the state is doing all it can to attract and retain educators in all of its schools
  • Providing support for a student improvement model in the new state testing system, as well as support for using multiple measures to assess student progress
  • Exploring a residency program for all future teachers.

Why an MOU?

The RTTT application encourages states that are applying to accumulate signatures from as many school districts and their unions as possible attesting to the support of the state’s application and what they are prepared to do with their grant money to improve their schools (the "scope of work").
Later in the meeting Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery joined the group, along with two of the Governor’s policy advisors, to walk through the “scope of work” document and take comments and questions. They also answered questions about the proposed new regulations regarding DPASII and School Accountability that will be included in their RTTT application. (For more, click here for the Nov/Dec. 2009 issue of DSEA ACTION! and turn to pages 12 and 13.)

As stated above, the regulations are not due to take effect until September of 2011. Lowery has made public that she will appoint a Work Group of education stakeholders (similar to the former DPASII Committee) to define all the critical questions left unanswered in the draft regulations:
What does student improvement mean? How much is enough to be considered Effective or Highly Effective? What does it mean for special needs students? Students who don’t take the normal state test? What does it mean for a teacher of non-tested subjects? What will the role of non-state tests be in defining student improvement?

Donohue has also asked local teacher union presidents to find members who would like to serve on a DSEA Career Ladder Task Force regarding "alternative compensation" issues and their ability to attract and retain educators. If you are interested, please let her know. The inclusion of bonus incentives for teachers in critical needs schools is a "career ladder" element. DSEA's position has been that Delaware must restore its current "alternative compensation system" before expanding it. That would mean restoring the funding for national board certifications and skills and knowledge payments.

" I truly believe that being at the table is the best way to protect our members. If we are not there, we can do nothing," repeats Donohue, adding that, "Most of these initiatives will go forward, whether or not the RTTT application is approved."

“Education reform has finally reached its bottom line: defining student achievement. As Dr. Lowery has said, we need to figure this out together. "And as the practicing educators, we need to be not only in the room, but loud and clear.”

As soon as the five lowest performing schools are announced by DoE, DSEA President Diane Donohue will contact the presidents of the local associations and convene a meeting with the DSEA leadership team and staff.

What is Race to the Top?

November 13, 2009....From NEA's Office of Education Policy and Practice

Today, the U.S. Department of Education unveiled its final application for its highly competitive grant program called Race to the Top (RTTT), which was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). 

All of the relevant documents can be found at: The Federal Register notice found on this website will be published formally on Wednesday, November 18.

We are pleased that the Administration took some of our suggestions in some key areas, although it did not accept all of our recommended changes. In listening to the nation’s educators, the Department made changes to the rules for:

  • teacher and principal evaluations, which now includes language on multiple measures, a focus on student growth and learning (as opposed to a primary focus on student assessments),  and providing feedback to educators to improve instruction
  • school improvement, which now recognizes school transformation as an equal option of four available options (see Appendix C of the Department’s Notice of Final Priorities,
  • the section focused on high-performing charter schools, which now includes language providing for “innovative, autonomous schools” not just charter schools.

The final rules also include a focus on union support, along with other stakeholder support, as a key success factor that will be heavily considered when state applications are reviewed for viability of implementation. The rules also focus on STEM issues, as well as school climate and culture, family and community engagement, and early learning outcomes.



  • Phase I RTTT applications will be due to the Department by January 19, 2010
  • Phase II RTTT applications will be due to the Department by June 1, 2010
  • Awards Announced: April 2010 (Phase I): by September 30, 2010 (Phase II)
  • States may apply either Round 1 or Round 2; unsuccessful Round 1 applicants may apply again in Round 2

Eligibility Priorities and Selection Criteria

  • Eligibility Requirements:
    • Approved applications for Phase 1 and 2 of State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Program;
    • No barriers at state level linking data on student achievement or growth to teachers and principals for purposes of teacher or principal evaluation
  • Absolute Priority: Comprehensive approach to Education Reform
  • Invitational Priorities:
    • Innovations for Improving Early Learning Outcomes
    • Expansion and Adaptation of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems
    • P-20 Coordination, Vertical and Horizontal Alignment
    • School-Level Conditions for Reform, Innovation and Learning
  • Selection Criteria
    • State Success Factors (125 Points)
    • Standards and Assessments (70 points)
    • Data Systems to Support Instruction (47 points)
    • Great Teachers and Leaders (138 points)
    • Turning Around the Lowest-Achieving Schools (50 points)
    • General Selection Criteria (55 points)
  • Competitive Preference Priority: Emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) (worth 15 points, all or none)

Budget Guidance
The Department has developed non-binding budget ranges so that states have a ballpark figure to work with when developing their applications. States can attach a higher or lower budget amount to their applications, but budgets that are much higher than indicated below likely will receive higher scrutiny.

  • Category 1 - $350 to 700 million (CA, TX, NY, FL)
  • Category 2 - $200 to $400 million (IL, PA, OH, GA, MI, NC, NJ)
  • Category 3 - $140 – $250 million (VA, AZ, IN, WA, TN, MA, MO, MD, WI)
  • Category 4 - $60 - $175 million (MN, CO, AL, LA, SC, PR, KY, OK, OR, CT, UT, MS, IA, AR, KS, NV)
  • Category 5 - $20 - $75 million (NM, NE, ID, WV, NH, ME, HI, RI, MT, DE, SD, AK, ND, VT, WY, DC)

DSEA Pres. Diane Donohue is appalled when people clap at the notion that teachers should be fired at will, with no due process rights. US Ed Sec Arne Duncan keynotes education conference Oct. 27 at Univ. of Delaware

At lunch, U.S. Secretary of Education Arene Duncan, Governor Markell and others all said the right things. In fact, the speeches made it clear that our state and federal administrations listen to and value teachers.
It was different earlier in the morning, when the group concentrated on two areas of "Race to the Top" federal guidelines for competitive grants: Turning around StrugglingSchools and Great Teachers/Great Leaders.

"I was appalled when people clapped each time someone said they wanted to have free reign to fire teachers, not give them due process rights." Donohue also corrected those present who thought that the current teacher, specialist and administrator evaluation system, DPASII, did not differentiate teachers or allow for termination for Ineffective Teaching. "She did a great job," added Philip Kaplan, vice president of the Red Clay E.A. and a fifth grade teacher at Forest Oak. Donohue said that afterwards, people she didn't know also complimented her on the way she defended Delaware's great teachers.

Final Race to the Top guidelines have just come out (Nov. 11), with applications from states due to be in by early next year. DSEA staff and leaders have just completed a Position Paper on the guidelines proposed by the US Dept of Education: states that are best meeting those guidelines will be best positions to receive grants.

We have shared them with Sec. Lowery and the Governor's office. We are now sharing them with legislators.

What is Race To The Top (RTTT)?

On July 24, 2009 President Obama and Secretary Arne Duncan announced the “Race to the Top,” a competition for $4.35 billion in federal grants. The proposal was formally published on July 29 in the Federal Register. Their goals are for states to use funds to drive reform in four main areas:
1) teacher effectiveness/distribution (Great Teachers and Leaders)
2) standards and assessments
3) data systems to improve instruction, and
4) turning around struggling schools.

More specifically, the draft language would favor states that ease limits on charter schools (there are no limits in Delaware), link teacher and principal evaluation to student achievement data (which already occurs in Delaware's Performance Appraisal System (DPAS) II, and—for the first time—move toward common academic standards. It is part of a broader effort to improve school achievement with a $100 billion increase in education funding, more money for community colleges and an increase in Pell Grants for college students.

NEA submitted its formal comments on Friday, August 21.

At their worst, these proposed federal guidelines for funds are more of the one-size-fits-all approach of No Child Left Behind that has failed students and schools for the last several years. These top-down regulations undermine state education laws and the role of collective bargaining. The new regulations also mandate using student test scores as a "significant factor" in evaluating and paying teachers; overhaul states’ content standards; create a new, national testing system; and limit the so-called solutions to helping lower-performing schools to just four. In addition to "transformation," they include reconstitution, charter school conversion, and closure.   

Following review by the U.S. Dept. of Education, final Race to the Top grant guidelines and application will be sent to all state departments of education later this year, perhaps in December or even early January 2010.

Within this context, the Delaware Department of Education has developed its Strategic Plan for the next three years, to align it with the Race to the Top guidelines. DSEA President Diane Donohue and Exec. Director Howard Weinberg worked on subcomittees to develop that draft plan. Donohue worked on Effective Teachers and Weinberg on Struggling Schools. That plan is now being reviewed by Governor Markell and is set for public release by the end of November.

Research and Resources

Turn Around Challenge: Background article from Mass Insight (an "evaluation and research institute") published in 2007 about the issues regarding turning around struggling schools.
From the U.S. Dept. of Education, an article from 2008 on Turning Around Chronically Low-Performing Schools

An NEA summary of all of the federal education $$ coming from the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009," presented by NEA staff to all NEA State Presidents and Executive Directors in April 2009

Answers to Your Frequently-Asked Questions about Race To The Top

RTTT Talking Points

NEA response to "Race to the Top" draft guidelines, August 22, 2009

Other large state associations - including New Jersey and California (see next item) - also submitted formal responses to the U.S. Dept. of Education.

California Teachers Association response to the RTTT guidelines, in which CTA concentrates on just three issues:

Continuing to link student achievement to success on a test
Balancing federal mandates with priorities for local control, and
Defining teacher effectiveness based on student test scores

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