ALBANY, NY December 27, 2011 -- Commissioner King's decision to cut off funding to School Improvement Grant (SIG) districts will disrupt services to our neediest students and deprive their schools of millions in promised federal funding - in what appears to be an arbitrary exercise of brinksmanship. Instead of requesting a waiver for New York's SIG school districts to give them a reasonable extension of time to construct quality evaluations that support teacher development and growth in student learning, SED is using a blunt instrument - taking away funds that provide essential services for students in our neediest schools.
The US Department of Education recognizes the challenges in getting the evaluation system right and has offered states waivers to provide the necessary additional time to complete this complex work. At least 14 states have received these waivers.
SED's refusal to support local school districts with a waiver request is especially disappointing given the fact that in July, SED sought and was granted a federal waiver on its own behalf to give the agency more time to meet Race to the Top deadlines. http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/amendments/index.html
Administrators and teachers from New York's SIG districts are working hard to transform their schools through adoption of new approaches to teaching and learning - despite budget cuts, layoffs and the lack of real support from SED. SIG district plans include the development of a fair and rigorous teacher evaluation system. While SED has yet to give districts information they need on how student growth will be measured, SED is demanding that they meet an arbitrary deadline or be punished by the unnecessary loss of federal funds these local districts so desperately need.
Decisions have consequences. The Commissioner's decision will adversely impact our most vulnerable students - contradicting SED's commitment to putting student needs front and center, and undercutting our shared mission of ending the achievement gap.