From the New Haven Unified School District
UNION CITY – Eager to strengthen and expand educational initiatives already in place, the New Haven Unified School District is preparing an application for a federal Race to the Top grant that could bring the District up to $30 million in much-needed funding over the next four years.
“Many people who are familiar with this second iteration of Race to the Top have told us that with the initiatives we’ve put in place, our focus on personalized instruction and our socio-economics, we are well-positioned and should be very competitive for this award,” Superintendent Kari McVeigh said.
“This money would be targeted, so it wouldn’t help us overcome all of the financial challenges that we’re facing after five years of state budget cuts, but it could help us make restorations in some areas, depending on how we structure the application.”
New Haven, like most districts in California, declined to apply for funding after Race to the Top was unveiled by President Obama as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, “simply because the conditions were so onerous,” Ms. McVeigh said.
“Even though we certainly could have used the money, we weren’t willing to compromise what we had worked so hard to put in place and what our teachers were working so hard to implement,” the Superintendent said. “We believed then, and we believe now, that we’re doing the right work for our students.”
Race to the Top II is designed “to build on the lessons learned” in RTTP I, according to the Department of Education, “to support bold, locally directed improvements in learning and teaching that will directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness.”
“It’s much more in line now with what we’re done and are doing,” Ms. McVeigh said.
Although RTTP calls for a teacher evaluation system, which has caused many teacher associations to decline to partner with their districts on an application, “we want our teachers to be full partners in this effort,” Chief Academic Officer Dr. Arlando Smith said.
To that end, teachers are helping write the application, and an Evaluation Task Force that includes an equal number of NHTA members and administrators has been working since May to create an evaluation process that grows teaching and learning and uses multiple measures to assess progress.
The District is being supported in its efforts by the Ball Foundation, which three years ago adopted New Haven as one of a handful of districts across the country where the non-profit organization supports the development of high-quality schools. Given the District’s financial difficulties, the Ball Foundation has agreed to cover the costs of the application process.
Two other widely recognized organizations are supporting New Haven’s application: West-Ed, a non-profit research, development, and service agency that works with education communities; and The College Board, another non-profit whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity.
“The support of organizations like the Ball Foundation, West Ed and The College Board, coupled with the involvement of our teachers, makes a powerful statement to those who will decide which districts receive funds, that New Haven is serious about serving our students,” Ms. McVeigh said.
RTTP applicants must address how they will “significantly improve learning and teaching through the personalization of strategies, tools and supports for students and educators that are aligned with college- and career-ready standards or college- and career-ready graduation requirements; accelerate student achievement and deepen student learning by meeting the academic needs of each student; increase the effectiveness of educators; expand student access to the most effective educators; decrease achievement gaps across student groups; and increase the rates at which students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.”
“These are things that we already are doing or at least already have begun making efforts to do,” Dr. Smith said.
The application is due Oct. 30. Grants will be awarded in December.