Holy s^&*! Jamie Vaznis of the Boston Globe is reporting that Massachusetts is not among the winners of the first round of the Race to the Top competition.
Kudos to Delaware and Tennessee for wining the first round. A lot of hard work (900 pages of it in the application, plus a legislative process, lots of print, lots of arguments, and a few fried political relationships) in Massachusetts did not get us there.
Time for a deep breath. How is it that the top performer on the Nation’s Report Card did not make it? Vaznis reports on Ed Secretary Paul Reville’s view:
“We are committed to reworking the application and filing it again,” said Reville, who added that he is interested in finding out how the federal government is defining “boldness.” “Boldness is always a function of measure and perception.”
I am glad Sec. Reville “remains optimistic about the state’s chances of being selected in subsequent rounds” and also to see his reference to our high academic standards. That said, claiming that it is about perception (and one would imagine reworking the current application so it sells better) is not a good start.
Here is my take — granted to be taken with a giant block of salt because I have not seen the ranking of the applications by the feds. That’s out in 20 minutes or so.
1. There was too much writing, regulation and gobbledy-gook process in the proposal. That’s true for charters, where the cap lift came with all kinds of red tape.
2. There was too much writing, regulation and gobbledly-gook process for “Innovation Schools” (the state’s turnaround school scenario). Nationwide, turnaround mechanisms have an almost uniformly poor track record. The Innovation School process, which amounts to meetings and red tape for a really long time followed by an expedited arbitration process, could, I’ll bet, take just as long as the current arbitration process. How is it common sense to think that you need a thick stack of legislative and more regulatory pages to describe new flexibility. That does not make sense.
3. Massachusetts failed miserably on the teacher evaluation issue (one of the four priorities in the application). The recent report by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (funded by the Boston Foundation) made it clear that evaluations weren’t happening in the BPS. (See Globe report here, too.) Fact is, the BPS on this score is just like the rest of the state.
Cosmetic changes won’t do, I’d say. Will it take legislation to fix? We’ll soon find out.