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Delaware: Race to the Top plans difficult to put into action

August 6, 2010

As Rhode Island officials head to Washington, D.C. to defend their second try at winning a federal Race to the Top grant, here are some lessons learned from Delaware, one of two winners in round one. Paul Herdman of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware says using the money has proved challenging:

Capacity. Implementing new standards, data systems, teacher evaluation systems, and strategies to turn around your failing schools will strain even the most capable state Department of Education.   This is a complex set of new tasks, so capacity is critical.  Simple example: Half of the money that goes to a state will go to the districts and charters.  Each of them will have 90 days to develop a “scope of work” on how to spend their funds.  Therefore, in a medium-sized state like Colorado, that means the state will need to negotiate more than 100 scopes of work involving tens of millions of dollars in very little time; incredibly tough to do well.  Bottom line, it would be good to begin thinking now about how to organize your current team and how you can build, borrow, or buy the staff you’ll need if you win. (…)

 Courage.  Delivering on RTTT will be hard.  The plan may be set, and the money may be there, but implementation will require lots of changes in policy and practice.  And the average citizen isn’t going to see the benefits right away.  In fact, moves like raising standards and telling thousands of parents that their child isn’t as well prepared as they thought is going to be incredibly difficult.  The push back to policy makers will be significant.  So, real thought needs to be given to the work that will be needed to sustain and build political momentum for this work over time.   

Read the full text of Herdman’s post on Eduwonk.

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