Smart Options: Investing the Recovery Funds for Student Success

Coalition for Student Success
April 2009

This paper from the Coalition for Student Success (of which Fordham is one of 56 members--and growing) suggests five priorities for states and districts to make sound use of the $100 billion in stimulus funding for education created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The big five: developing common (i.e., national) standards; improving the use of data (in particular, following the recommendations of the Data Quality Campaign); conducting "meaningful" teacher evaluations; turning around some schools and closing others; and developing classroom- and school-based reforms to help "struggling" students (i.e., those who are at least two grades behind). All of this is sound advice, and the few pages of elaboration on each provide useful examples and supporting arguments. Perhaps most helpfully, they include specific steps that state and district leaders can take. For example, to strengthen teacher evaluations, governors or chiefs should "require that tenure and retention decisions be tied" to them. Superintendents should revamp seniority-based staffing rules and bring in outsiders to establish a "baseline" of how the district's teachers perform against "a meaningful standard." Much of what's suggested in here won't be easy to accomplish, of course, and one fears that many states and districts will gratefully accept their federal billions without making these kinds of changes. (Arne Duncan insists that such places won't qualify for his $5 billion incentive kitty.) Here's hoping leaders aim higher. The paper concludes with a handy appendix, compiling the major components of ARRA funds (e.g., Phase I and II stabilization, Race to the Top State Incentive Grants, Teacher Incentive Funds, and more), their size, timing, and requirements. It's all available here.

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