Implementation is the New Innovation

With the Obama administration’s signature education initiative, Race to the Top, concluded, states and districts should resist the temptation to try new reforms and should focus on improving implementation of the initiatives adopted to increase student success and close achievement gaps. A new report by Education First, a national education policy organization that worked closely with states throughout the grant period, has identified 10 things all states and districts should do now.

“In a country so in love with innovation, we need to get better at following through on what we begin, rather than constantly shifting to new ideas just because they’re new,” said Jennifer Vranek, founding partner of Education First and co-author of a new report, Race to the Top: Following Through on What We’ve Started. “The reforms states and districts are undertaking are vital but difficult-which is why they’re controversial. Education leaders must continue the hard work they’ve begun.”

In Race to the Top: Following Through on What We’ve Started, Education First maps out the following 10 steps to help states, districts and educators capitalize on the investments made under RTT:

  1. Help educators access high-quality teaching materials aligned to college and career readiness standards.
  2. Stick with high-quality, annual, state summative assessments to measure student progress toward standards–and explain why assessments matter.
  3. Rethink local assessment systems to emphasize “fewer, better, and essential assessments” and help teachers with assessment literacy.
  4. Develop school leaders’ skills to understand, observe, evaluate, and improve standards-aligned instruction.
  5. Adopt school models that allow the most effective teacher leaders to both work directly with students in classrooms and lead, coach, support, and mentor other teachers.
  6. Create, refresh, or close and restart schools so that every student can attend an outstanding public school–traditional or public charter.
  7. Increase the quality of evaluations by expanding the observer pool and including student surveys.
  8. Maintain student growth data in educator evaluations, but adjust the weights and measures for educators in different grades, subjects, and roles.
  9. Use state resources to monitor achievement gaps and re-envision accountability systems.
  10. Build broader coalitions to improve implementation and prevent policies from backsliding, while continuously gathering data and improving new standards, assessments, and evaluation systems.

“This report serves as a great resource for state and local education leaders as they reflect on best practices and lessons learned from this historic investment in education,” said Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The report also highlights promising practices that have evolved from Race to the Top and showcases areas where states should focus their improvement efforts.

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