District ‘Race to the Top’ rules spur mixed reaction

“Adaptive learning has its place within personalized learning; however, that is just one component of personalized learning,” wrote Don Knezek, CEO of ISTE, in a comment on the ED webpage.

Goldmann said while it’s important to incorporate adaptive learning, schools also should use digital tools for interaction orally and in writing, project-based learning, and creative assessment.

Furthermore, she said, competition guidelines should more strongly encourage districts to explain how they plan to provide and track professional development in their implementation of personalized learning.

ISTE’s comments suggest adding personalized learning measures into evaluation systems for both teachers and principals: Teacher evaluations should be based in part on their “ability to use digital tools to personalize learning,” and principal evaluations should measure how well the principal “establish[es] a school-wide digital culture.”

As the teacher’s role in the classroom shifts away from a “sage on stage,” school districts should take advantage of the planning required for the RTT-D competition to consider how digital learning “can change the way the classroom is structured,” Goldmann said.

‘Burdensome bureaucratic process’

While the National School Boards Association (NSBA) praised the RTT-D program as a “potential catalyst for more comprehensive reform,” the group also raised major reservations about the plan’s approach to local government authorities.

“Key elements in the draft reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the governance role of local school boards that must be corrected in the final document,” wrote Michael A. Resnick, the group’s associate executive director.

NSBA emphasized that RTT-D is meant for local education agencies (LEAs), which can be individual school districts or consortia of several small districts. NSBA argued that authority over those grants should go to the school boards that lead those LEAs—but as the draft is written, “unnecessary requirements” for state and local government approval would dilute LEAs’ authority.

NSBA took issue with the competition’s requirement that districts evaluate their school boards, arguing that such evaluation should remain a local issue free from federal mandates; furthermore, it argued, most school board officials are elected by voters and thus already subjected to the “most strenuous, direct, and transparent evaluation process possible.”

In the same vein, NSBA urged ED to eliminate the state and mayor, city, or town administrator comment period on LEA grant applications.

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