Saturday, June 08, 2013

A Thought on Being 32nd Out of 36th

One of Senator Tom's favorite things to point out about education reform in Washington State is to first invoke President Obama--since they're both Democrats, dontchyaknow--and then say:

"We're an education reform backwater.  On the Race to the Top we placed 32nd out of 36 states--that shows that we're just not keeping up!"

There's a reasonable discussion to be had about the assumption that Race to the Top was worth winning--probably not, but all the same.  What's lost in the statistic, though, is that second round of Race to the Top occurred in 2010, meaning that we've had the 2011, 2012, and 2013 legislative sessions in the intervening time, along with action by the State Board of Education, the Professional Educator Standards Board, and a couple of other oversight groups.  They've certainly done some work--notably TPEP, and the passage of Charter Schools.

So the think I thought last night, as I was lying in bed:  If the Race to the Top competition was happening right now, how would we do?

For fun, try out this spreadsheet from the federal Department of Education.  It's the detailed score reports for all 36 states that applied during that round of Race to the Top, and you've got to go waaaaay to the right to see Washington.  Our overall score, 291, was well below the national average (390), and also far away from the score of the lowest state that qualified for the second round that year (Kentucky, with 412 points).

Why did we stink?

The obvious answer was Charter Schools, though I disputed that at the time.  There were 40 points available in the area of "Ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charter schools and other innovative schools"; we received one single, lonely point.

Now, though, we've got a charter school law that is ranked third best in the country.  Because it's my blog, I'm going to go ahead and give us the 38 points that Colorado (the 4th best charter school law in the country) earned on that section, for an overall increase of 37 points.  Score!

Another area that we took a bath on was "Improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance."  That area had 58 possible points; the average of all the states was 42 points earned; we had 20.  Since then we've passed the laws that have lead to the Teacher/Principal Evaluation Project, which directly addresses notions like "Using evaluations to inform key decisions" and "Developing evaluation systems."  Marzano and Danielson are now more understood as evaluative 
frameworks than they are as actual living people, and those systems are certainly rigorous and used to "inform key decisions", as requested in RttT.

We've certainly done enough and changed enough to justify raising that score of 20 up to at least the average score, 42.  That's a 22 point increase, and with those two steps alone we've gone up 59 points.

Another improvement, for Race to the Top purposes at least?  We've adopted the Common Core State Standards.  Because we hadn't at the time, we lost 15 of the 40 points possible in "Standards and Assessments--Adopting Standards."  Restore those 15 points, and we're up 74 points from where we were at the beginning.

25 more points would have us at the national average for this particular measure, and I'm willing you could find them with a deep fisking of the changes made to certification ("Linking student and teacher data to preparation programs"),  or finding those areas where CEDRS would get us more points ("Making data accessible"), or God willing "Making education funding a priority".  Under the Race to the Top scoring, we're at least average RIGHT NOW.

So why keep belittling what we've already done, the way that Senator Tom persists in doing?  Because none of this is really about school improvement--rather, it's about hitting the teachers in this state as hard as he can every chance he gets, because Rodney Tom doesn't believe in public education.


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