Florida's Race to the Top Picks Up Speed

By: FDOE Release
By: FDOE Release

Tallahassee, Florida --

With the sound of the starting gun still echoing in the distance, Florida’s Race to the Top (RTTT) gained significant momentum last week after reaching key implementation goals. The Florida Department of Education (DOE) announced today that seven of the state’s eight RTTT committees have been filled with eager volunteers and the procurement process to secure a vendor to help build a value added student growth measure for use by school districts as they develop their local evaluation systems has also begun. Additionally, DOE completed reviews of all draft school district-submitted work plans on time, providing districts with essential feedback in anticipation of their November 9th submission deadline.

“Just like our participating districts, DOE staff have been working into the night to reach our implementation goals and keep this race on track,” said Education Commissioner Dr. Eric J. Smith. “I’m particularly excited about the establishment of our volunteer committees who we are going to be leaning on heavily to help push this reform effort in a collaborative, meaningful direction.”

In September, DOE issued a statewide call for volunteers to serve on one of eight state implementation committees responsible for organizing and executing the state’s work as outlined in the grant application. The request resulted in more than 1,100 submissions from interested stakeholders. Of those submissions, 119 members, representing a broad array of knowledge and geographical diversity were chosen to participate in one of seven different committees. The membership of the eighth committee is still being finalized and should be concluded shortly.

The eight statewide implementation committees will focus on activities that benefit every school district across the state. Examples of implementation committee activities include developing an instructional support tool for use by all Florida educators, researching and developing a system by which all school districts can measure growth in student performance fairly and accurately, and establishing a single online portal to connect educator resources across the state.

In addition, the Department, in coordination with superintendents from around the state, is formulating “Communities of Practice” for participating school districts. These unique forums will provide an environment where districts can share information and best practices regarding critical issues on teacher compensation, evaluation systems and turning around struggling schools.

The Department also successfully initiated the procurement process to locate and contract with a vendor to help conceptualize and construct Florida’s new value added student growth measure as called for in the original grant application. An Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) was published last week seeking vendors who specialize in this critical area. Value Added Measures will form the basis of the student performance aspect of the new evaluation system, relying on sophisticated calculations that are able to account for a variety of student variables. Responses to the ITN are due by November 30th.

“Value Added Measures, while complex in name, are an extremely important piece of the puzzle as we work to build new, more effective teacher evaluation systems that can accurately account for student academic growth,” added Commissioner Smith. “But securing the right expert is only the first step, and we are going to have to remain diligent about incorporating stakeholder feedback in this process to ensure we build a system that meets muster for every one of our districts.”

Rounding out the implementation highlights, DOE staff were able to successfully review all 62 school district work plans submitted by the October 13th feedback deadline. This review period was optional for districts, providing them with an opportunity for expert review by DOE to ensure their final submissions would successfully meet the requirements of the grant. DOE’s deadline for final district work plans remains November 9th with formal submissions to the U.S. Department of Education due by November 22nd.

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