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Inside SCSD: Racing to the top

In the report, released last week by New York State Education Department (SED) Commissioner David Steiner, three schools, Delaware Elementary, Hughes Magnet School and Fowler High School were identified because of unacceptable scores on English Language Arts (ELA) and math testing. Fowler was also cited for its low graduation rate.

It was, however, also noted in the Commissioner's report that "Hughes Elementary School in Syracuse, for example, made Adequate yearly Progress (AYP) in English language arts and mathematics in 2008-2009. If the school is able to make AYP again in 2009-2010, the school will be able to be designated as in Good Standing."

The "backstory" is a predictably confusing program known as "Race to the Top," (RTTT) a 4 billion dollar federally funded program designed to encourage states to advance education reforms around four specific areas:

* Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;

* Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;

* Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and

* Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.

(2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html)

According to the U.S. Department of Education, "Awards in Race to the Top will go to States that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling and comprehensive education reform. Race to the Top winners will help trail-blaze effective reforms and provide examples for States and local school districts throughout the country to follow as they too are hard at work on reforms that can transform our schools for decades to come."

Since the program was announced in July, 2009 by President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, 40 states (including NY) and the District of Columbia have applied for a piece of the grant money.

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