Alice Cain On Teacher Evaluation & RTT

Two guest posts coming today and tomorrow.  Today, Alice Cain, former education advisor to House Labor and Education Chair George Miller (D-CA) and current leader of education work at Hope Street Group discusses Race to the Top implications on teacher evaluation.  Tomorrow, Suzanne Tachney the executive director of PIE-NET (disc: a group I helped launch) and a former state board of education member shares the view from state advocacy leaders.

Winning is about more than money

By Alice Johnson Cain

With the recent announcement of 10 more Race to the Top winners, we are one step closer to improving more schools for more kids—and not just in the winning states. As a former Congressional staffer who helped write portions of the Race to the Top legislation, it has been fascinating to see how the law has played out so far, both in ways we anticipated and in ways we did not anticipate.

I have been impressed by the momentum in winning states as well as the resolve to move forward in states that barely missed the mark in their peer reviews. Leaders and stakeholders in a handful of states that did not win have made it clear that their application will be treated as their strategic plan to move forward—even without the federal money. It appears that the possibility of winning Race to the Top funds helped to break longstanding logjams that stood in the way of policy reforms. It has become clear that this is not just about money—many stakeholders are pushing forward with this process because they believe it is the right thing to do for both children and teachers.

Across the country, I have witnessed initial skepticism for evaluation reform replaced by enthusiasm when teachers see evaluation as a tool that will give them information they need to help them improve their practice in ways that will help their students succeed. Evaluation, done right – which includes not just better tools, but better training and alignment to professional development – can transform professional development into a fair and meaningful examination of how to improve practice, yielding a stronger team of educators for teachers across their schools. With state-led evaluation reforms spurred by Race to the Top, the country will finally be on the path to transforming teaching into a truly iconic profession.

Through Hope Street Group’s work on the ground in the states winning in round one, I have witnessed impressive progress through collaboration. It has been exciting to see hundreds of teachers roll up their sleeves and actively participate in the implementation of Race to the Top. For example, over 500 educators from across Delaware are actively contributing to the state’s plans to reinvent its evaluation system through in-person workshops and participation in an online community tasked with determining how to best incorporate measures of growth into the evaluation system. In Tennessee, nearly 200 teachers spent a Saturday sharing their ideas and expertise around questions that included how to measure growth in untested grades and subjects. These teachers will also provide feedback to the state committee charged with developing guidelines for Tennessee’s new evaluation system.

Delaware and Tennessee’s teachers, principals, superintendents, union leaders, school board members, parents, business and philanthropic leaders are rolling up their sleeves and working together to deliver on the promise of reinventing teacher evaluation. I have seen cooperation and collaboration among stakeholders at a level we could only dream of when I worked in Washington DC.

While Race to the Top was intended to be a model for policy reform, leading states are also charting new and better models for effective stakeholder collaboration. Children, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders are the real winners in the states that are poised to continue along this path.

Alice Johnson Cain worked from 2004 – 2009 as Senior Education Advisor to Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, and is currently the Education Director at Hope Street Group.

One Reply to “Alice Cain On Teacher Evaluation & RTT”

  1. Why doesn’t the USDOE go all the way and just propose national education curriculum (and removal of education as a state’s rite) and the eradication of a state’s ability to interpret and differentially implement what is actually intended.

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