Unspoken side of Race to the Top plans

Just recently RTTT has been finding its way into the News Journal again as the Governor is telling how the grant has helped improve education. Well one part of this plan that has not been discussed is one I’d like to open discussions on as it has come up in our district recently. Besides the accountability plans, that are still not finalized, the 90 minute collaborative planning time was a major issue with districts up and down the state. Many districts and their associations had to find ways to meet this major piece of the RTTT plan which stated that teachers needed 90 minutes of planning time per week to review the data generated by the 3x per year testing. To meet this planning time many districts went to what is called an A/B schedule that is kind of like the old 70’s odd/even gas rationing. The students schedules are divided up by blocks odd and even (1,3,5,7 and 2,4,6,8) then on Monday A day the students would attend blocks 1,3,5,and 7. Then on Tuesday the students would attend blocks 2,4,6,and 8, and then this alternating schedule would continue the rest of the week. Well the problem with this well intentioned plan is that last time i looked there were an odd number of days in a week so students would see some instructors 3 days and others only two days. There in lies my problem with this schedule as depending on the students schedules the face time for students is being minimized when it should be getting better if we want our students to pass these required tests!
This school year is the first time that Milford has used this scheduling in the High School and how this will affect our students test will be seen later on this year. If there are other districts using this method to meet these RTTT promises I hope you will let me know how its going, and what affects it has on your scores.


About Gary M Wolfe

The Author spent 10 years as a member of the Milford Delaware Board Of Education, and is currently seeking the 18th Senatorial seat in the Delaware Legislature.
This entry was posted in Delaware, Education. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Unspoken side of Race to the Top plans

  1. Bob Reif says:

    Hi Gary,
    This was, and is, my high school’s schedule. Why can’t a schedule in which students see every teacher every day work in our district? The 80 minute blocks should keep the science teachers content for their lab days. A planning block would have to be worked in, but four out of five days every week you would have your core subjects, not two or three depending on A/B as well as everything being disrupted when Monday holidays occur.
    Thanks for all you do for our students.
    Bob Reif
    Regular Day
    Block Time Minutes
    0 7:11 – 7:51 40 minutes
    Entrance Bell 7:45 AM Warning Bell 7:53 AM
    1 7:55 – 9:15 80 minutes
    2 9:19 – 10:44 85 minutes
    3a 10:48 – 11:13 25 minutes
    3b 11:17 – 11:42 25 minutes
    4 11:46 – 1:06 80 minutes
    5 1:10 – 2:30 80 minutes
    6 2:34 – 3:14 40 minutes

  2. Gary wolfe says:

    Bob, just to give a little more detail as my own sons schedule is setup that he has 3 x 90 minute blocks before lunch, and then one 90 minute block after. This is the same for A and B days through the week, except for Wednesday which is an alternate day as one week it is A and the next it’s B. This week is a really bad one for face time as my son will only see his A day teachers one time this week, yet because it is AP classes he still has to stay up with the work.

    • Bob Reif says:

      Gary, This schedule also plays havoc with my sons classes since he misses all classes every Tuesday to travel to Del Tech for AC classes. AC is a great asset, but the system really stacks the deck against the kids who eagerly participate in it.

      • Wolfe Gary says:

        I went down that road with my older two boys and AC is one program I’ve always fought hard for, and truly believe it helps prepare these kids for college more then any other class in HS.

  3. One problem is the current 10th graders were double booked for English and Math in grade 9. Therefore, the entire class would be unable to fulfill their pathways classes for graduation. The failure rate in their senior year would have been extraordinary. The short sighted vision of passing tests is paying off very poorly in preparing students.
    Bob – in high schoo all classes are same in credit hours. 🙂 Credit hours don’t differentiate in importance (core content) like the middle school concept. This is where Academy is divided on whether it is a middle school or high school. This is the problem. In grades K-9, English and Math take 80% of curriculum priority. At high school, students catch up. Essentially, students are getting to high school and needing to “catch up” to a college prep where all students are college bound. Unfortunately, the A/B schedule doesn’t allow dailly reinforcement to transition to this mentality. It may take student a year or two. 😦
    A/B schedule – teachers (education advocates) were promised we’d have enough supplied for all kids.
    While the blame game is passed, the student needs still remain I hope some adult somewhere shows leadership to put kids achievement first. Maybe then someone will realize the test scores will follow rather than racing to the middle.

  4. Other key piece of info. District decided to make change to A/B. Federal uses growth target from Fall to Spring DCAS score, but only grade 10 at high school takes DCAS. Science and SS – grade 11 – are end of course – not growth measured. Therefore, district chose A/B for purpose of grade 10 only. There are two other grade levels at the high school affected. It is at these other grade levels where AP courses occur. (PS Focus of AP courses are also in RTTT – we are encouraging kids into frustrating structure not meant to help them.) In addition, not all 10th graders are in demand of year round English/Math for DCAS. Some do pass DCAS. The counter argument is even those who score a 4 at the start of year must show growth. Sadly, their 10th grade year (and the whole school) focuses the payoff of a higher scale score of level 4 rather than a structure that supports college bound rigor.

    • Edris Harrell says:

      Actually, the Growth Model rewards the teacher/school the full 300 points if the student is proficient or above at the end of the year–whether or not that student started at that level. There are no extra points for going above proficiency. If a student scores above proficiency in the fall, they could actually get a lower score in the spring–but if that spring score is still at proficiency they will be given the full 300 points in the growth model. There is no benefit in growing the students that are already on grade level at the start of the year.

      The schools who will benefit the most from the Growth Model are those whose students start the year off not too far off grade level. For schools where the students are way below grade level and make progress during the year but still are not proficient by the spring, the schools will not make the full 300 points if the students are not proficient. Those who are teaching children from lower SES homes or ELL students will not get the benefit of the Growth Model as much as those who teach students from middle-class homes.

      • Wolfe Gary says:

        I’ve actually heard comments made that no need to spend time on those making 3’s or 4’s on the state test as the only ones need to worry about are the 1’s and 2’s as the others will take care of themselves. The really sad thing is when schools actually limit there number of low SES and ELL students to maintain there Superior ratings!

  5. Pingback: Race to The Top message from downstate Delaware « Kilroy's delaware

  6. Gary – Here is the memo sent to Chiefs. This gave CR, Lake, Poly, Seaford the ability to meet in PLC after school – not having to send elementary students home early each week.

    June 14, 2010…While Scope of Work plans are for the most part nearing completition, there are some districts where coming to agreement on finding 90 minutes of required collaborative time has put a strain on their deliberations.

    In a memo released today, Sec. Lowery gave everyone some latitude:
    I have heard your concerns about the required 90 minutes of weekly collaborative time. Some of you have worked with your teacher leaders to plan implementation of the 90-minute block K-12 as soon as August 2010. Congratulations. However, other LEAs face very realistic challenges, and I truly appreciate the time, thought, and energy that each of you has put into meeting the requirement. We all need for any reform strategy to be inclusive and sustainable. To that end, in order to be responsive to your constraints and feedback, I am adding some new flexibilities to the requirement.

    First, I am willing to approve plans that divide the 90 minutes into multiple blocks, so long as the blocks are at least 45 minutes long. Second, I will approve plans that replace the 90 minutes every week with 180 minutes every other week. Lastly, while the Race to the Top plan requires that the 90 minutes be in place by January 2011, I understand with the complexities of scheduling, you may not begin your collaborative time until August of 2011.

    All of that said, I do believe that 90 minutes of collaborative time in a single block will be most effective for educators, and DDOE will not be able to guarantee the same level of data coach support to those LEAs that break up their collaborative time (unless, for example, two different 45 minute groups meet back to back, providing a 90 minute block for facilitation). I strongly encourage LEAs who have found a scheduling option that allows for 90 consecutive minutes to leave their plans as they are now.

    Thank you again for the tremendous effort, and as always, please let us know if you have any questions.

    With much appreciation and respect,
    Lillian M. Lowery, Ed. D.
    Secretary of Education
    Delaware Department of Education

    • Wolfe Gary says:

      The comment at the end I love as who knows what they will come up with if you use this flexibility, “DDOE will not be able to guarantee the same level of data coach support to those LEAs that break up their collaborative time (unless, for example, two different 45 minute groups meet back to back, providing a 90 minute block for facilitation)”

  7. Pingback: Common planning time for teachers; We noticed your questions | Delaware Ed

  8. Jack says:

    Do parents know that teachers are being pulled out of the classroom during core subjects, such as reading and mat so that teachers can meet?

    So instead of having small group reading or math instruction, teachers are being covered by other teachers within the building so they can meet.

    As a teacher, I miss over 2 hours of reading time each month with students.

    Now how’s that for accountability!!

    • Wolfe Gary says:

      So again add that to the A/B schedules some schools have gone to in order to meet the “collaborative” time, and teachers and students are spending less time together. The scores for this years DCAS should be real interesting reading.

  9. You can definitely see your enthusiasm within the work you write. The arena hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. Always follow your heart.

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