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Organization: Newhall School District
Date: January 11, 2010
Newhall School District Agrees to be Part of California's "Race to the Top" Application
Santa Clarita, Calif. — Race to the Top (RTTT) is a federal program to assist states and school districts interested in moving in new directions. It is a competitive grant based on a state's application to the United States Department of Education. The first step in submitting the grant is for California to obtain commitments from districts interested in participating in the possible funding. Once districts are committed the application can be submitted in April. NSD's Governing Board held a special meeting in January to consider the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that is required to participate in the California's proposal and agreed, if the state is successful in its application, that the district should be part of the efforts described below. Board and administration believe that they will be dealing with many of the elements of RTTT whether they are part of the grant or not, so it makes sense to get in on the ground floor.

The proposed plan for California will have four elements.

1) Standards and Assessments: Update the core standards for subject areas and align them with nationwide standards, offer professional development related to the new state curriculum, and pilot a new student growth accountability model that could possibly replace school and district Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) models. A growth model of student achievement will be developed. NSD staff members have believed for years that the current model is flawed and needs to be changed. They have argued for this since the inception of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and want to be part of creating a better way to judge our schools

2) Great Teachers and Leaders: Design and implement teacher and principal evaluations that use multiple measures, including student achievement growth data as a significant factor; conduct annual evaluations of teachers and principals; use data from evaluations to inform the development of training, compensation, promotion, retention, tenure, and dismissal; and implement programs to provide ongoing, job- embedded support for school leaders and teachers. Administrators believe that NSD's evaluation process already contain many of the elements being considered. Any changes in how evaluations are conducted must be negotiated with the Newhall Teachers Association (NTA).

3) Data Systems to Support Instruction: Enhance data systems, collaborate with the state on reporting data elements as part of the RTTT partnership, commit to using formative assessments that are aligned to the state standards, share data with researchers, and offer professional development for staff on using data to improve instruction.

4) Turning around California's lowest-performing schools: While this is a mandated section of the plan, it will not have any effect on NSD. The district has no schools in this category.

Administrators make the point that this is not about funding and will not help to alleviate the serious and deep budget crisis that we have been experiencing in California. They expect funding over a four year period of work. However, the amounts provided will probably only be enough to help in the required activities of the grant and will not have effect beyond those efforts. Instead, administrators see this effort as a way to be in front of new directions and provide the staff development that insures that NSD is part of a nationwide improvement effort. They anticipate that the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) next year will look a lot like Race to the Top, and want to be part of creating a better program.

For anyone interested, the RTTT website can be found at www.caracetothetop.org.

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