Why Didn’t N.J. Make the First RTTT Cut?

Here's The Record's list of reasons why our first Race To The Top application was rejected:
* It was unclear whether county offices, instruction specialists and the New Jersey education department had the "capacity, knowledge and skills necessary" to support districts in making major changes.
* The application did not show how teacher evaluations would affect promotions.
* The state did not maintain data to show which teachers were highly effective.
* The state lacked a plan for removing ineffective principals, cutting the number of ineffective teachers and making sure an equitable share of talented faculty worked in high-poverty schools
While we were praised for Trenton’s “thoughtful reform agenda, investment in early education, support for charter schools and national core standards, the fix was in because of lack of support from NJEA. Reviewers commented, “The overwhelming lack of support among labor has the real and credible possibility to weaken the state’s reform agenda." In fact, the two winners, Delaware and Tennessee, were able to solicit union buy-in, and many attribute their success to this accomplishment.

The Wall St. Journal calls foul: “By giving unions and school boards such a huge sway over grant money, the Administration is saying that union buy-in matters as much or more than the nature of the reforms.” But here’s another point of view from Andy Smarick at Fordham’s Flypaper.
I’ve been going through state RTT scores, and based on what I’m seeing, I’m becoming convinced that states should refuse to capitulate to stakeholder demands to weaken their applications. I’m growing confident that states that put together bold proposals can win in the second round even if a significant number of their unions and districts refuse to sign on.
In other words, don’t water down initiatives like linking student assessment to teacher evaluations, expanding school choice, and closing down failing schools in order to garner support from NJEA’s execs. Keep focused on a strong, systemic reform agenda and don't pander to stakeholders determined to maintain the status quo. Counsels Smarick, “Don’t. Back. Down.”

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