race to the top2

This post was originally published on December 19, 2012 and titled A Race to the Top Winner, Really?

The Community Center for Education Results (CCER) was responsible for creating the proposal to collect an extensive amount of student data on our children. This pertains to Bill Gates’ desire to collect student information for each child in this country that can be accessed by those producing and profiting from products to be sold to school districts. For more on this, see Will the Data Warehouse Become Every Student and Teacher’s “Permanent Record”? Here’s an excerpt:

        inBloom, the non-profit started with a hundred million dollar investment from the Gates Foundation, is planning to create a digital record which, barring catastrophe, truly could be a permanent record of every K12 student, from their first interaction with the schools to the last. The amount of information they are planning to collect is staggering. Here are the several hundred categories, which include academic records, attendance records, test results of all sorts, disciplinary incidents, special ed accommodations, and more.

        This level of data collection was made possible by the Department of Education’s 2011 revision of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Suzanne Estey is on the board for the Community Center for Education Results (CCER), actively participated in the Road Map Project to the point of making it a part of her stump speech now that she is running for the Seattle Public School Board.

CCER, the Road Map Project and student data collection


There are more questions than answers as it pertains to how the Race to the Top money will be spent by the districts in our state that “won” Race to the Top funding.

The Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSED), which is made up 35 school districts,  received $40M after  the Community Center for Education Results spent three years, by their own admonition on the Save Seattle Schools blog, to pull together the data that apparently the Department of Education and Bill Gates wanted anyway. My first question is, how did CCER know about this grant three years ago?

The following is a list of school districts that make up the PSESD:

According to newspaper reports only 7 out of the above 35 districts will be receiving the grant money. Seattle Public Schools was one of the “winners”.

As always with Race to the Top, there are winners and there are losers.

The Community Center for Education Results (CCER) received $50,000 this year from the Gates Foundation specifically to apply for the Race to the Top grant and $2,692,179 “Community Grant” in 2011.

In 2010, CCER received $1.6 M “Community Grant”.

This effort was titled the Road Map Project and CCER took the lead on assembling the massive amount of information that was required to “win” the grant.

According to the Road Map website (remarks in parenthesis are mine):

1. Minimum federal requirements – these must be met to be eligible for the grant:

Strong focus on personalizing education (computer based “learning”)

Stronger teacher, principal and superintendent evaluations by 2014 (based on test scores)

Complete implementation of Common Core State Standards by the 2014-15 school year (even though the CCS in math are lower than what we have now in Washington state).

Transparent reporting of data and school-level expenditures. (This includes teacher’s salaries by the way.)

This road map is data intensive and will take a significant amount of grant money just to track the following items as indicated on the Road Map’s website.

Road Map On-Track Indicators

The following is a list of the Road Map Project on-track indicators. These are reported annually against specific targets.

% of children ready to succeed in school by kindergarten

% of students who are proficient in:

3rd grade reading

4th grade math

5th grade science

6th grade reading

7th grade math

8th grade science

% of students triggering Early Warning Indicator 1*

% of students triggering Early Warning Indicator 2*

% of students who graduate high school on time

% of graduating high school students meeting minimum requirements to apply to a Washington state 4-year college

% of students at community and technical colleges enrolling in pre-college coursework

% of students who enroll in postsecondary education by age 24

% of students continuing past the first year of postsecondary

% students who earn a post-secondary credential by age 24

* Early warning indicators are for 6th and 9th grade students. EW1: Six or more absences and one or more course failure(s). EW2: One or more suspension(s) or expulsion(s)

Other Indicators to be Reported

The following is a list of the Road Map Project contributing indicators. These are reported annually or whenever possible, but do not have specific targets. These contributing indicators combined with the on-track indicators make up the full list of Road map Project indicators.

% of children born weighing less than 5.5 pounds

% of eligible children enrolled in select formal early learning programs

% of licensed childcare centers meeting quality criteria

% of families reading to their children daily

% of children meeting age-level expectations at the end of preschool

% of children enrolled in full-day kindergarten

% of students taking algebra by the 8th grade

% of students passing the exams required for high school graduation

% of English language learning students making progress in learning English

% of students taking one or more Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses

% of students absent 20 or more days per year

% of students who make a non-promotional school change

% of students motivated and engaged to succeed in school

% of students attending schools with low state achievement index ratings

% of females age 15-17 giving birth

% of 8th graders reporting select risk factors on the Healthy Youth Survey

% of students exhibiting 21st century skills

% of students who graduate high school by age 21

% of high school graduates completing a formal career and technical education program

% of eligible students who complete the College Bound application by the end of 8th grade

% of graduating College Bound students who have completed the FAFSA

% of students who directly enroll in postsecondary education

% of students who did not complete high school on time who achieve a postsecondary credential

% of students employed within 1 and 5 years of completing or leaving postsecondary education, including wage

So when does educating our students begin to happen?

Will this help us in Seattle at all with our $17M shortfall?

Will this get us much needed counselors, smaller class sizes or safer school buildings?

According to the comment section of the Department of Education website, the district has agreed to include student test scores in the evaluation of teachers. Which test? The MAP test that was not designed to be used in that fashion? If not, yet another standardized test?

How will special education students be accommodated in terms of this standardized testing? Will those test scores be used when judging the performance of a teacher?

With the assumption that it cost CCER/Gates about $3M to gather data over a three year period and compile it for this grant application, can we anticipate that it will cost at least that much each year that this information is to be provided to the Department of Education? How long is this data reporting to continue? Forever?

Is any of the information that the DOE requiring covered under the privacy act of FERPA? Not any more. FERPA was conveniently modified by the Department of Education in 2011  to make all of this possible.

According to the Seattle Times the money includes an “online math program for elementary and middle students in low-income neighborhoods.” Wouldn’t real life tutors be a far better approach?

To follow are some of the reviewer comments that can be viewed on the Department of Education website:

Puget Sound was able to document sufficient autonomy and state support for the changes proposed. The state allows Alternative Education plans that individualize or personalize educational experiences that may include parent partnerships, online courses and other approaches.

Another comment:

All students would have the chance to enroll in distance or blended learning programs.

“Blended learning” is the phrase used for online learning.

Another comment:

The plan commits all the districts to personalization although it was not in the original design adopted two years ago. The current proposal features personalization and identifies one district that has worked the most on that frontier. The other LEAS will take their best ideas and implement them over the next four years.

The measurements proposed are at the elementary school level designed mainly for measuring students in grades and groups, not individual persons. The major focus is on reading, Algebra, STEM and high school completion. The emphasis is clearly on reducing gaps in achievement and attainment. There is a requirement that students, parents and educators agree on an individual plan for “High School and Beyond” beginning in the middle school and refined and further developed through the senior high school years. The appendices add considerable detail on how each district will meet personalization objectives and assign responsibilities.

One district has experimented with personalized instruction and agreed to share their ideas on what works. The other districts will offer AP courses, IB, internships and blended learning that will provide and meet personalized objectives. The districts have a high quality plan for personalized learning, but most visibly at the senior high school level with fewer choices available or students in the earlier grades.

I certainly hope that “personalized instruction” means one-on-one with a real live teacher or tutor and not putting a student in front of a computer screen.

Last question for the day:

Isn’t it ironic that Don Neilson is all set up and waiting to cash in on his investment in our state with his online learning company?

I hope that we don’t see this RTTT money become a nightmare as it has in other states where once the reality sunk in, schools, districts, principals and superintendents realized that there was too high a cost figuratively and literally for receiving such money.


I received the following comment on this post that deserves attention.

I was just looking at the application the ESD submitted the other evening.

You probably have this information but if you don’t you might appreciate it.

The Road Map Project website page, http://www.roadmapproject.org/collective-action/race-to-the-top/,  has a link on it to download the application. The direct download link is here http://www.roadmapproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/12-13-Road-Map-District-Consortium-Application.pdf

While I haven’t thoroughly read the application I have scanned it and have some quick comments.

The application commits the districts to doubling the number of students taking algebra in eighth grade—targeting those in high need middle schools first. I really doubt this will help advance the academic math achievement of the students involved, especially students in high needs schools. You can put all the eight grade students you want in algebra but it will do little good unless those students are adequately prepared for algebra prior to beginning an algebra course. For more info on this in the article called The Algebra Problem.


There are some more recent reports that have not been incorporated into this article.

This grant further commits these districts to implement the Common Core State Standards and the corresponding assessments. In addition to this commitment, these district have committed themselves to using the Next Generation Science Standards (the CCSS science standards) and corresponding assessments. Sounds great… they have committed to adopt and implement science standards that are still in draft form (the second public draft will be released to the public in January 2013 with the final released later in 2013) and without the standards being finalized I would not expect the assessment to be developed yet. Precedence has already been established in WA for adopting things that don’t quite exist yet—-the legislature authorized the state superintendent to adopt the CCSS before the first public draft was released.

If you haven’t seen this article, you may appreciate it, Common Core and the Vehicle of Our Future, http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/j-r-wilson-common-core-and-the-vehicle-of-our-future/.

Many of the things these districts are committing to have questionable, if any, evidence to support their effectiveness. Yet money will be spent. You raise a good question—how much of that money will be spent collecting data? How much of that data will be KidFax data?

$40,000,000… the application says the enrollment of these districts is 147,000. That calculates out to $68 dollars per student per year for each of four years… before considering administrative costs, the ESD’s cut, the cost of data collection. Since I have started to talk money… let’s consider that we spend in the neighborhood of $10,000 per student per year.

Multiply that time the enrollment of 147,000 for one year to get an expense of $1,470,000,000. Multiply that times four years (the terms of the grant) and the approximate expense over four years is $5,880,000,000, nearly six billion. The $40,000,000 in grant funds hardly makes a dent in the expenses over the four year period of time— 00.68%, not even 1%. $40,000,000 may sound like a lot of money but it is only a pittance when considered relative to the overall costs. These districts and the ESD have not sold their souls, they have sold the souls and future of their students for a pittance.

By the way, I have taught in one of those classrooms where all eighth graders were in algebra… and then I have taught in high school algebra 1 classes where there were many students repeating algebra because they didn’t pass in eighth grade or in ninth grade (and most don’t pass it the second time around either)… because they were placed in a class they weren’t prepared for. You would think with all the testing we do these days we could use the data to make decisions about who is prepared for algebra and who isn’t… no, no, no…. let’s have algebra for all ready or not never mind what the data says.

Dora Taylor