Comments on "Race to the Top" Guidelines by Alice Foltz

Comments on "Race to the Top" Guidelines by Alice Foltz

8/17/09

Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
(Attention: Race to the Top Fund Comments)
US Department of Education 
400 Maryland Ave., SW, Room 3W329
Washington, DC  20202

  1. This special funding rewards data collection rather than the on-the-ground needs of schools that are struggling. There is little equity today in school funding, and schools with the most critical problems (generally urban and rural) will have little capacity to meet the additional reporting requirements in the "race to the top" initiative.  "Race to the top" funding should go to schools that work in high-poverty communities, and should support initiatives including small classes, longer hours, summer programs, and extended family programs.   Every person in education (students, administrators, teachers, parents) knows that these are the things that help, not additional testing.  The grants should reward states that provide greater funding equity to districts with greatest need, and should encourage these districts to innovate and involve the community.
  1. My suburban school district has placed a certified teacher in each school to serve as "testing coordinator."  This takes one certified teacher out of the classroom, out of personal contact with students, and increases class size for everyone in the district.   The data collection requirement of NCLB makes this a reasonable response, but not one that helps student progress.  "Race-to-the-top" guidelines will strengthen the need of local schools to take qualified people out of the classroom and into test administration and data disaggregation.
  1. Charter school "caps" should be lifted only after strong evaluation systems are in place, not before.   The number of failed charters is approximately equal to the number of successful charters in my area, and lifting the "cap" without methods for evaluation is making the students the "guinea pigs" for various untested innovations.
  1. Teacher evaluation is important, but should not be tied to test scores.  Education can be strengthened by encouraging teacher evaluation that is holistic, involving self-peer-student and administrative evaluation, as well as test results.  Currently, NCLB discourages teachers from working in problems schools and discourages teachers from teaching students who are behind in skills.  Race-to-the-top funding guidelines exacerbate this NCLB problem.

 Alice H. Foltz, teacher/department chair
15002 Tarleton Dr.,
Centreville VA  20120
(Fairfax County, Virginia)