Race to the Top switch raises questions

Wilmington’s Bayard Middle School is no longer identified as an under-performing school eligible for Race to the Top funding and special attention.  Some say the state’s apology is not enough.

Due to a calculating error, Bayard was included as a Partnership Zone school last month in the second round of Delaware’s RTTP initiative.  The state’s winning application in the 2010 federal education reform effort resulted in $119 million being made available to Delaware. 

According to Christina Board of Education member John Young, officials and teachers at Bayard were genuinely excited about moving forward.  “While some of the ideas that were discussed are things that we can do and should do and will do, there are also more than a few things that are simply not going to be within our capability based on the fact that we’re not going to get the money,” Young said.

Beyond losing the additional resources and assistance as a Partnership Zone school, district funds have also already been spent planning for initiatives that now may not happen.  Young thinks it’s up to Governor Markell to acknowledge the mistake and consider making amends. 

“We acted in good faith, so he owes us a good faith restoration of money spent to be put forward in that agenda,” Young added.

According to Delaware Deputy Education Secretary Dan Cruce, the fact that Bayard’s designation has changed does not make its planning a moot point.  Districts receive Race to the Top funding that does not have to be allocated toward any particular school.

“There’s still a great opportunity for them to continue the planning and make some decisions about implementation using that other money they have for Race to the Top,” Cruce said.  He added that the Department of Education has experts in the field of turning around schools who are already working in other Christina schools that are in the Partnership Zone.

Earlier this week, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Lillian Lowery replaced Bayard with Laurel Middle School on the list of this year’s Partnership Zone schools.  Bayard’s grade reconfiguration in 2008-09 resulted in it being granted “new school status” under federal accountability ratings.  That code change was not considered in the state formula.

Red Clay District’s Warner Elementary School would have been the next school eligible for inclusion.  However, Lowery chose the Laurel Middle School instead because Red Clay already had three schools in the second round.  “Being part of the Partnership Zone is an intensive commitment that requires significant staff resources,” Lowery said in a statement this week.  “I have concern that four schools going through this process at one time would exceed the capacity of any district.”

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