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
Previous articleDistricts should use budget woes to innovate
Next articleRestarts beat turnarouns
Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here