Here are the headlines summarizing the changes from draft to final RTT regulations:
ED is heavily emphasizing that they want to see a comprehensive, consistent, and coherent reform approach at the state level, that encompasses the four policy assurances and that includes participation and commitment from the highest-need LEAs in the state (In allocating funds to participating LEAs, states must give priority to high-need districts.)
- There is a new category of criteria against which state applications will be judged, called State Success Factors. These criteria are meant to give states a chance to state their overall reform agenda up front, and then describe how they will address the four policy assurances within that plan. Addressing these factors has become an absolute priority for applying for R2T funds. This change is meant to ensure that, in their applications, states demonstrate:
- A coherent reform agenda
- The capacity to lead LEAs
- The ability to improve outcomes
- Teacher and principal effectiveness is worth more points than any other single category. Emphasis on teaching quality has been refined and shifted in response to hundreds of comments. Final regs encourage the design of high-quality evaluation systems; indicate that effectiveness includes multiple measures, not just student performance data, and must be focused on student growth; and include a number of sub-criteria on principal and teacher professional development and support.
- District support is critical—and the strength of district support will be used as a tiebreaker if necessary
- Final regs make clearer that the emphasis on data includes not only longitudinal data systems, but also the use of data to “inform professional development and foster a culture of continuous improvement in schools and LEAs”
- The Department has made it easier, by aligning requirements and definitions, for states to develop consistent and coherent plans across R2T, SFSF, and Title 1 SIG. The four turnaround models are now including in all three programs, and states are now permitted to use R2T funds for intervention in low performing Title 1-eligible secondary schools (even if they are not receiving Title 1 funds). The transformation model for turnaround is no longer considered a “last resort” as long as no more than half the schools in a district use it.
- The criteria regarding encouraging charter schools as a means to innovation and successful reform has been moved from the turnaround schools section to the general criteria section, to emphasize that the Department does not view charters simply as a way to turn around low performing schools, but as an overall strategy for improving a district. There are sub-criteria designed to ensure that states and districts are providing equitable funding opportunities to charters, that they encourage charters that are serving high need populations, and that allow states to provide evidence of other innovative school reform and management initiatives that are not specifically charter schools.
- There continue to be two eligibility requirements for applying for R2T: approved applications for SFSF Phases 1 and 2, and no barriers linking student performance data to teacher evaluation. The latter has been amended to include only state-level barriers.
- Making education funding a priority and demonstrating stakeholder support are no longer application requirements, although they remain selection criteria.