EETT, where art thou?


Background: On Thursday, the California State Senate Budget Subcommittee #1 on Education held a hearing that discussed the EETT ARRA money the state has received, but not spent. This was not an “action” item, but simply held for informational purposes. It’s a pain to view the hearing because there is NO fast forward and the part about EETT is about 1 hour in, but the testimony was good.  The plan at this point is to abandon both the distribution of formula money and the competitive grant process that was carried out in Fall of 2009, and replace it with a competitive grant process for districts to create/improve Pre-K data and another program for High Schools to collect data related to college and work readiness by adding SAT and AP scores. Then all this data would be massed together into a statewide longitudinal data system. The required 25% of funds for teacher professional development would be used for training teachers on how to use this longitudinal to inform and adjust their instructional delivery to students.

I’ll write below why this is a really bad idea. Those of you who have already figured that out, emails or letters to your state legislators and State Senator Liz Ducheny Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, (916) 651-4040 who is pushing this policy. Make the following points in your appeal, and please also share how much you would get and how those funds are used in your district:

  • The funds are way overdue (ARRA/EETT was signed by the President in Feb. 2009!) Funding should have been distributed last November.
  • The funding criteria by the feds should be honored or we are in danger of losing the $72 million.
  • The funds were intended to be spent quickly in order to save jobs.(stated in the Fed. guidelines)
  • The LAO’s suggestions for directing the funding to P-20 is premature. (CDE testified to this).
  • Some districts have already spent their own funds and are intending to be reimbursed by the grants.
  • LEAs know better than bureaucrats how and where to target the funds and they had to prove that through their grant applications.

Hasn’t the legislature already done enough damage? These are federal “pass through funds”. The state contributes nothing to education technology.

[The text comes from Virginia Strom Martin, Legislative Advocate for LAUSD — Thank you Virginia!]


Why this plan? This is truly a case of the tail wagging the dog. The state feels it is under enormous pressure to improve its position for federal grants, and said as much in the hearings, like RttT. The state was deficient in two areas in the first round, one of them centered on not having a good longitudinal data tracking system for students. They want to shore up CALPADs the statewide student data system to make it “P-20” compliant. EETT is seen as an easy source of funds for that.

There is one huge problem with that approach. Spending EETT funds on a data tracking system does not meet the primary goal of EETT, supporting and enhancing classroom instruction. The mis-match is evident in a couple of key places. It does it not meet the improving classroom instruction by having kids using technology (what are you going to do, have the kids do analysis on their class scores over their school “career”?). The part about providing information to help individual teachers improve instruction is another whopper.

Electronic longitudinal data on students is a nice piece of data for teachers to have, but it’s not critical information. Remember, I’m not talking about current grades and test scores, but being able to go back through their entire student history, and manipulate the data for analysis. Does a high school teacher *really* need to have every students’ Pre-K to current grade records in electronic form so they can analyze it? Yeah, it’s nice to see what history a kid has, but you can look in their paper CUM record for that. The advantage of an electronic data system is more for meta analysis of larger trends, and patterns. Frankly, it doesn’t tell you much about a given student, or class, that you can’t figure out intuitively after spending some time with them.  The scope of data required for this is not data to inform teachers, but more for research and policy purposes.

You can really see this mis-match in goals with another requirement of EETT, that 25% of funds be spent on teacher professional development. I want you to picture this, they will be starting a new round of RFPs for grants, grading them, sending results, and then giving out money. If they are really fast, it might get out by December. I’d bet on January of 2011 myself. That means they have only half a school year to get the projects up and running, and 7 months to spend 25% of $72M (that would be $18M) in teacher training.

First, most districts have already implemented new student information systems to be compliant with new CALPADs requirements. Those trainings were only 6 hours, not the multiple days required to spend this kind of money, because how much time can you spend showing folks how to generate a graph or report? The LAO and CDE talked about it in terms of having trainings that would center on how teachers could use the data from the system to improve instructional practices. The only thing is, there was no discussion about what those instructional practices would be. What will they be? They entire focus was on data and there was NO discussion of instructional practice or methods, or squat. The use of this data system under those conditions would be like getting a diagnosis, but being told by the doctor, “I’m not sure what treatment or medicine to use, but I’m sure there’s something at the pharmacy, why don’t you go there!” That would be malpractice in any other profession.

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