California failed to receive RTTT grants under Gov. Schwarzenegger. Gov. Jerry Brown and Supt. Torlakson have applied for a waiver for No Child Left Behind trying to have California meet guidelines under its own terms instead of the Federal governments. Brown has declared he wants to lessen the emphasis on high stakes testing for California children and direct the millions of dollars spent on testing and data tracking systems elsewhere. This has disappointed some districts who have jumped on the "reform" bandwagon that is headed towards increasing the impact of standardized testing rather than decreasing it.
The Federal Dept. of Education has opened up $400 million in Race To The Top grants for individual schools districts. The focus for the implementation of the grants is personalizing education for "a set of students in their schools". The guidelines include individualized learning for college and career readiness (on-line learning?), more tests that would evaluate principals, teachers and school boards(!) and a focus on school "overhauls". 15 to 20 districts would receive $15 million to $20 million over four years. Los Angeles Unified Supt. Deasey has said that LAUSD will be applying for the funds and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson has said that he supports Sacramento applying for the funds. Since Johnson has no authority over any of the districts in the Sacramento area, what does this mean for Sac City Unified?
SCUSD Superintendent Jonathon Raymond is a member of CORE--the California Office to Reform Education. This is a group of superintendents from some of California's largest school districts, including LAUSD's Deasey, that support California's adoption of federal Common Core Standards and using state student test data to track students and evaluate teachers. Moreover, in May 2010 in the midnight hour of a meeting, the SCUSD board of education voted to approve an resolution to pursue adoption of Common Core Standards, even if California failed to receive a RTTT grant. It passed with board member Kennedy voting no and members Bell and Rodriguez abstaining. This would seem to mean that Sac City will be joining LA Unified in pursuing the grant money. There is a caveat however--the application requires the buy in of the district's teachers union. The grant funds wouldn't go to help all the students in the district, just "a set of students". Given the board's recent decision to disregard state ed code regarding teacher seniority for lay-offs and the preference given by the Superintendent to his Priority Schools at the expense of equally high risk students at the district's other schools, it would seem that buy in from the Sacramento City Teachers Association is rather doubtful.
Dangling money in front of a district that is on the state's "qualified" financial status list is sure to get many people besides Kevin Johnson to urge the SCUSD board and those of other district's in the same financial striats to pursue the RTTT grants. Applications are due in October, right before school board elections. This is bound to be a factor in the races and no doubt Students First or one of its stand-ins will be spending money to decide the outcomes in favor of candidtes who support the "ed reform" agenda.