WASHINGTON—The Department of Education worked hard to strike the right balance between what it takes to get systemwide improvement for schools and kids, and how to measure that improvement. (One example of the effort to achieve this balance is in the Race to the Top criteria for teacher evaluation. As we wrote in our comments on the draft regulations, “RTTT is an unprecedented opportunity to … develop meaningful and effective teacher evaluation systems that can measure teacher performance and inform decisions in a way that helps students and is fair to teachers.” We are pleased the department heard our call for greater teacher involvement in evaluation systems.) Clearly, the department recognizes that schools succeed only where there is a culture of collaboration and all stakeholders work together to improve teaching and learning.
We know that many states have begun the application process, but that not all are involving teachers and their unions in a meaningful way. We take Education Department officials at their word when they say they will look for meaningful collaboration in the state Race to the Top applications.
Teachers and principals are central to any effort to improve schools, but they can’t do it alone. The best Race to the Top grants will develop specific supports for students and staff, such as early childhood education, professional development, and community schools that provide wraparound services for students and their families.
Policy is made in Washington, but reform happens where students are taught—in the classroom. Race to the Top creates a real opportunity, but it will work only if all stakeholders come together to make it work. We are looking forward to what we learn—not only about what works but about what doesn’t—as a guide for federal education policy, including the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.