School’s On for Summer: States Engage Teachers in Race to the Top

Just as the Department of Education has been connecting to the public for feedback on its new round of Race to the Top (RTT) projects, such as new student assessments, states have, for their part, been reaching out to teachers and principals to obtain valuable input and provide training to support Race to the Top reforms. This summer, states from Hawaii to New York are using Race to the Top funds to support professional development and outreach to teachers, who are essential to successful implementation of RTT’s reforms.

As an Education Week article reported this week, in Maryland, Race to the Top funds are being used to support “the largest professional development program for teachers ever held in the state,” bringing together representatives from every school in Maryland, with the aim that staff in attendance “take a lead role in building understanding among their colleagues back home.” These professional development opportunities double as listening sessions, where state officials solicit teachers’ input on curriculum and testing standards. Teachers say they hope the training will help them understand and implement new standards to ultimately create more consistency across schools, districts states and the nation.

Maryland is just one of several RTT winners working to engage teachers (and welcoming observers from other states to learn from their efforts). Across the nation, summer outreach will focus on the college- and career-ready standards known as the Common Core, which states have developed together, as well as new teacher and administrator evaluations and initiatives to turn around low-performing schools. Some highlights include:

  • Georgia will host a summer leadership program for school turnaround teams and facilitate consultation sessions on the state’s teacher evaluation system.
  • New York will convene some 1,000 participants for intensive professional development on the Common Core Standards, the state’s teacher evaluation system and using assessments to target instructional efforts.
  • Ohio will host professional development sessions on new teacher and principal evaluation systems, Common Core and the instructional improvement system.

Race to the Top states and their educators will be hard at work all summer long to ensure that key players in the classroom have a role in shaping and implementing the program that Secretary Duncan has credited with “fundamentally redefining the education landscape in America.” So much for summer break!

Andrea Suarez Falken is a Special Assistant at the Department of Education.


  1. I’d like to address the department and Arne Duncan specifically for a moment if I could. This is the only way I know how to reach out so hopefully someone sees this. I heard this department really sees every comment.

    Given the recent developments in Atlanta (and possibly all over the country), where 44 schools and 178 teachers were involved in a cheating scandal, has the department of education considered the wholesale removal of achievement based testing standards that put extra pressure on teachers to meet “quotas” rather than truly deliver a high quality education to students?

    I absolutely URGE anyone that sees this to pick up a copy of Dr. Deming: The American Who Taught the Japanese About Quality by Rafael Aguayo. The book focuses on the true underpinnings of quality and how quotas and competitive based goals can, in the long run, bring a seemingly stable system to its knees. I am worried that the emphasis placed on teachers achieving testing goals has them focusing too much on “standardized tests” and scores rather than true quality education where children enjoy school have learning built in to their life-long DNA. Unfortunately, I believe too many students only try to achieve high scores without “true” learning. I believe them because I was one of them. I graduated 4 out of 1000 in a good high school and attended Northwestern University. All the while I wasn’t really learning, I was just achieving. Only now, 10 years out of college, do I realize the error of my ways.

    Please visit my blog at as well. There are plenty of great facts about health, education, and a gamut of other topics there.

  2. Good teachers are often driven out of the classroom by collectives that want to push their own misguided agendas.

    Many of these teachers remain idle because the system makes no effort to locate these teachers and place them in compatible classrooms. In the Internet age, too many people in hiring positions are overly dependent on technology, sit in their offices and make no time to connect with smart, underemployed educators outside of the classrooms. It has because too easy and efficient for them to mouse click their way to a team or workforce without doing the real, hard work of seeking out underemployed, underappreciated and underused talent.

    In many cases, the best teachers of math and science reside outside of the field of view of department of educations, school adminstrations and universities. They sit idle, perplexed, frustrated and unamused.

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