Advice to states on RttT

In general, states should use RttT as an opportunity to advance accountability, choice, and teacher/leader effectiveness (see EEP policy papers) and the innovation agenda.  Following are thoughts on the four required categories and bonus categories.
Standards & Assessments

  • Adopt Common Core
  • Adopt statewide guidance & college access system (e.g., WA adopted Navigation 101 from
  • Facilitate statewide move to online curriculum
  • Align high school exit and CC placement exams (the hidden gateway in the system)

Data to Support Instruction

  • Move all state testing online; use automated essay scoring to augment human scoring
  • Adopt growth model for school accountability
  • Use longitudinal data system and student identifier to track progress into post secondary and work

Great Teachers & Leaders

  • Have state board issue framework for educational employment  (e.g., Rhode Island’s Basic Education Plan)
    • Performance-based evaluation (incorporating but not limited to value-add data)
    • Use multiple measures for non-tested non-core subjects
    • Compensation based on skills (ie differentiated) and performance
    • Eliminate (or delay) tenure and seniority-based assignments
    • Create an Academic Capital Index by school to show aggregate effectiveness
  • Require alignment of local contracts/policies for participation in RttT and SIGs
  • Open up certification
  • JIT professional development online

Turning Around Struggling Schools

  • Create statewide improvement district (e.g., LA RSD) with turnaround unit in or affiliated with the state education department
  • Push for larger percentage of turnarounds & restarts (i.e., all PI5+)
  • Launch restart CMO and sign up 2-3 local CMOs to do restarts
    • RFP for blended solutions from virtual providers (K12, Insight, iQ/KCDL, Connections, Kaplan)
    • build community support for difficult work
  • Line up at least 3 state certified school improvement vendors (you may have to create one)
  • Create statewide network of credit recovery options and dropout prevention/recovery schools (e.g., AdvancePath)
  • attractive pay package for teachers in turnaround and restarts
  • Build a leadership pipeline
  • Don’t even think about applying without a strong charter law without caps, funding parity and access to public facilities

Bonus Points

  • STEM: create/expand STEM school network and require science projects/fairs every two years
  • p20: expand dual enrollment with online and CC courses
  • school autonomy: follow UK lead and reduce LEA of budget control and push money to schools (and, of course, make sure money follows the kids)
  • data: make adaptive assessment like NWEA available statewide

Integration (another area likely to be appreciated and perhaps worth bonus points)

  • SIG, TIF, EdTech
  • i3 grants

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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