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District signs on for Race to the Top funds

The Lake Pend Oreille School District recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Idaho Department of Education to participate in the Race to the Top program.  If the state’s grant application is funded, numerous school districts across the state will join with the LPOSD to improve student achievement.  There is stiff competition at the national level for these funds but Idaho Superintendent of Instruction Tom Luna feels that Idaho is uniquely poised to win part of the multi-million dollar grant.

If the grant is awarded, each school district that signed the MOU will have 90 days to decide if they desire to continue. Issues surrounding this acceptance include how districts and bargaining groups will determine how “merit pay” will be disseminated to staff.  According to the state application, this merit pay will be available for teachers taking on leadership responsibilities, improving test scores, and other improvement areas as identified by the school district team developing the process.

Beyond this pay issue, there are numerous additional benefits that can help to make a school district more effective. The most notable include the following:

End of Course Assessments: At the end of the grant period all classes and content areas will have a standardized assessment to be administered to all students in the district. This will hold all students and teachers accountable to the same high standards, as well as highlight the pockets of excellence so dissemination of teaching strategies can occur.

Common Curriculum: A common core curriculum of nationwide standards will be developed. The advantage to this is that school districts, states, and regions can be compared for effectiveness. In short, it could become the measuring stick for district effectiveness.

Longitudinal Data System: A long neglected, but highly needed system to track student progress will be developed.  This will allow teachers the opportunity to analyze student performance on tests at the touch of a button. It will include all ISAT testing scores and other performance data. This will help teachers to plan instruction around specific student needs. Cost of a system such as this has held local school districts from implementing a comprehensive program in this area.

International Comparison: In addition to the state mandated ISAT testing, other testing in mathematics, reading and other subject areas will allow districts to compare their student scores with those from other countries. Again, it will provide a benchmark but also an opportunity to learn.

The Board of Trustees and I believe the above are well worth investigating, as is the merit pay. If Idaho wins the grant we will have the opportunity to move forward to study all of the above. If at the end of 90 days we cannot agree with segments of the grant, the district has the opportunity to withdraw from the MOU.  We will providing more details as the process moves forward.

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Author info

Dick Cvitanich Dick Cvitanich is the Superintendent of Schools for the Lake Pend Oreille School District. He has been an educator for 33 years, and became superintendent for LPOSD in 2006. He was educated at the University of Washington where he earned a BA in History and a Superintendent's Credential. He has been married to Diane for 32 years and they have raised three sons who "taught us as much as we taught them." "I have a passion for public education and the role it plays in our democracy. In my free time I read, ski ... come to think of it, I don't have that much free time."

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