Stop floating – start swimming

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Monica Brady-Meyerov has an interesting report on WBUR. Seems the state is thinking about pulling up stakes on its Race to the Top application. The submission deadline of June 1 is coming up fast.

It’s Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester who floats the bad news.

“We are full speed ahead working toward a submission,” Chester said, “but we are doing a calculus as to whether or not the competition is stacked against Massachusetts or whether or not it’s a level playing field.”

Competition stacked? Not a level playing field? Not sure what that means, but there are two things the Ed Commish seems to want movement on:

Chester says it’s “maddening” that in the first round of the grant competition the state lost points because it wouldn’t commit to national standards before they’re available for review. Massachusetts is nationally recognized for having high standards.

Chester also notes it will be difficult for the state to win federal money when its second-largest teachers union has pulled out of the application process.

What’s this mean? This story is all “strategery.” The Department is lowering expectations. That’s for sure. The fact that it’s the Ed Commish floating this, rather than the Secretary, tells you that it is jockeying for position with American Federation for Teachers/Massachusetts chapter (Tom Gosnell). Together with the news in Brockton of 100s of teachers to be laid off, this should add to the pressure to do one’s all to get the possibly $250 M in RttT funds.

The other smart bet is that the US Department of Education has told MA education officialdom that without some master stroke to advance teacher evaluations, the absolutely weakest portion of MA’s application, the Bay State’s application is sunk.

Not to sound like a broken record, which is always the way one introduces a statement when s/he is sounding like a broken record: The Masters of the Universe at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education should not turn their backs on the state’s standards. The way forward is simple: Focus on teacher evaluations. Even if you do not get full buy-in from AFT, you will deliver a high-scoring application.