Will $$ Follow Kudos?
by Melissa Bailey | Aug 22, 2012 4:18 pm
Posted to: Schools, School Reform
As the White House heaped more praise on New Haven’s school reform team, the district held out hope that the plaudits will translate into money back home.
New Haven teachers union President Dave Cicarella (at left in photo) traveled this week to Washington, D.C., where the White House honored him as one of 12 “Champions of Change” who are leading efforts to “turn around” low-performing schools.
The White House Champions of Change program aims to recognize “ordinary Americans doing great work in their communities.” Each week, the president honors people from different lines of work who “serve and strengthen their communities.”
A White House press release credited Cicarella with the ratification of a landmark 2009 teachers contract that paved the way for the district to overhaul failing schools and grade teachers based on student performance.
Cicarella’s invitation was the latest in a series of gestures from the White House applauding New Haven’s school reform drive.
Applause but so far, no big grants.
New Haven has gained praise from top Obama officials for the collaborative way it settled a new teacher contract. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan invited school officials to D.C. to talk about the city’s teacher evaluations. Duncan sent video greetings applauding the launch of the city’s college scholarship program, New Haven Promise.
In May, Duncan himself showed up at New Haven’s Brennan/Rogers School and held up the city’s reform drive as a national model.
Five city schools—Brennan/Rogers, Clemente Leadership Academy, Wilbur Cross High, James Hillhouse High and Hill Central Music Academy—earn a total of about $3.4 million per year from Duncan’s $3 billion School Improvement Grant program, which aims to transform the nation’s lowest-performing schools.
But so far, the plaudits have not won New Haven a piece of Duncan’s other, more competitive, reform-focused federal grants.
“We’ve been a national leader, but we have not received significant national resources in order to support that,” said Garth Harries, New Haven’s school reform czar.
New Haven struck out on a $35 million opportunity to win an Investing In Innovation Fund (i3) grant in 2010.
It missed out on several rounds of Obama’s signature Race to the Top competitive grant program, because only states were allowed to apply, and Connecticut fell short of other states in the type of reforms urged by Obama.
Two Shots For Cash
The city now has two new irons in the fire, according to Harries.
New Haven sent off an application last month seeking $50 million from this year’s $285 million Teacher Incentive Fund competition.
The money, spread out over five years, would go towards setting up different kinds of professional development for teachers based on their strengths and weaknesses. It would also let the district create teacher leadership jobs to reward top-performing teachers with extra responsibilities and extra pay—something that’s allowed under the teachers contract, but has never come to fruition.
“Right now, the only way teachers can advance is to become an administrator,” Harries said. New Haven wants to create “opportunities to have people advance their career trajectory while they’re teachers.” New Haven is well-suited for the grant because it already has already overhauled its teacher evaluations to reflect job performance, Harries said.
New Haven school officials headed to D.C. last week to meet with consultants to plan a strategy for a second pool of money—the next round of Race to the Top competition, which is open to school districts instead of just to states. Applications are due Oct. 30.
This round of the competition invites districts to apply for money to create a personalized education for kids who are falling behind. New Haven plans to ask for up to $25 million, depending on the number of kids served by the plan, according to Harries.
In his visit to Brennan/Rogers in May, Duncan declined to say what New Haven’s chances are for Race to the Top; he said he looked forward to reading its application.
“We think these grants, both of them, are particularly well-aligned to what our strategic priorities are anyway,” Harries said. “We’re going after these because they’re well-aligned.”
“We think we’ll be competitive,” Harries said. “These are good opportunities for us, but I’m not taking anything to the bank until the awards are made.”
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Its interesting that New Haven is getting national accolades when our schools start next week and teachers, principals and assistant principals are still being appointed. BOE knew that Wilbur Cross was losing 3 of its Assistnat Principals and only appointed new one’s this week. I Wonder if schedules will be ready for kids when they arrive at Cross or Hillhouse when the students arrive for school.