How might $2.9 million be used to improve Harford County Public Schools? School officials answered that question in a recent report to the Harford County Board of Education, outlining their plans to spend the school system’s share of a federal grant known as “Race to the Top”.
According to the report, Race to the Top (RTTT) is an “unprecedented $4.3 billion federal program…aimed at boosting student achievement, reducing gaps in achievement among student subgroups, turning around struggling schools, and improving the teaching profession.”
Through a competitive application process, Maryland won a federal RTTT grant worth $250 million over four years, $2.9 million which officially trickled down to Harford County Public Schools on March 1, when the funds were released to HCPS by the state. The $2.9 million is to be spent over a four-year period.
HCPS got the $2.9 million after the state approved the county’s application, which was organized around eight projects. Those projects were summarized and updated in a March 14 report to the school board, a copy of which appears below. Using additional information provided by HCPS upon request, The Dagger has added (in italics) the total budgeted cost for each project over the four years, along with a brief explanation where necessary.
Project One: Race to the Top Project Manager – Total Four-Year Cost: $350,505
(Note: A current employee has been assigned to this position; the dollar amount represents approximately 75% of the cost of this employee, which will be funded by the grant.)
In order to monitor HCPS progress toward achieving the goals outlined in the HCPS RTTT application, the RTTT Project Manager oversees the implementation of the State’s reform plan and subsequent projects designed to address the criteria associated with the four reform areas. The RTTT Program Manager also works in conjunction with the State’s evaluator to ensure all three phases of evaluation are completed efficiently and effectively. Finally, the RTTT Program Manager closely monitors the implementation of the K-12 STEM Education Strategy to ensure progress is achieved and aligned with all RTTT initiatives. The RTTT Program Manager is a member of the HCPS Leadership Team and dedicates 75% of her current work to oversee RTTT.
The RTTT Program Manager oversees all HCPS Race to the Top projects as outlined in each section’s action plan and includes:
– Assisting in the hiring of staff for all grant-funded positions listed in the RTTT application;
– Supporting the Superintendent as he briefs the Board, supervisors, principals and administrative staff on Harford County’s RTTT plan;
– Planning the Teacher Effectiveness Academy in conjunction with MSDE for HCPS school-based teams to participate;
– Assisting the Executive Director of High School Performance in overseeing the work of the new model department chairpersons;
– Overseeing revision of HCPS Teacher Induction Academy; and
– Supervising the new Instructional Data Specialist position to assist in transition to high quality standards and assessments.
HCPS has hired a 0.45 contracted position to assist the RTTT Program Manager with current responsibilities regarding intervention services. The position will be paid through the operating budget, until the completion of the grant. At that time, the position will no longer exist and the RTTT Program Manager’s salary will revert back to the operating budget.
Project Two: Model Department Chairs – Total Four-Year Cost: $727,992
(Note: Funds will be used to employ two Model Department Chairs and to purchase office supplies)
The Model Department Chairs play key roles in the creation and implementation of the HCPS STEM initiative and content delivery, including transition to Common Core Standards and high quality assessments. These two individuals will work with four principals, core content supervisors, and the Coordinator of Professional and Leadership Development to provide supplementary content specific evaluative services at four high schools, as well as assist in school-based follow-up regarding the Teacher Effectiveness Academy.
RTTT funding supports two of the four model department chairs through the end of the grant. The two positions are in Mathematics and Science. The other two positions, Social Studies and English, are paid from operating funds. HCPS will sustain the Mathematics and Science positions at the completion of the RTTT grant.
Project Three: AP/SAT College Board – Total Four-Year Cost: $90,640
(Note: Funds will be used for contracted services with the College Board)
In order to ensure college readiness, HCPS has begun work with the College Board to address system needs and to identify strategies designed to increase the number of students ready for college. Some of the strategies include parental outreach; Advanced Placement (AP) practice exams; Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) assistance and preparation; and technical support.
Project Four: Instructional Data Specialist – Total Four-Year Cost: $399,615
To ensure teachers are able to access timely data and resources, HCPS has hired an Instructional Data Specialist, who reports to the RTTT Program Manager. In coordination with the Office of Technology, the Instructional Data Specialist works with MSDE to coordinate the implementation of data management in determining existing infrastructure needs and to detail the educational technology solutions in order for HCPS teachers to use the Instructional Improvement System. Additionally, the Instructional Data Specialist works with the Office of Technology, content supervisors, and the Office of Accountability, as well as assisting staff with Performance Matters.
Project Five: Data Systems – Total Cost $357,200
(Note: Funds will be used in year two of the grant to purchase hardware and software, and for staff training.)
HCPS plans to purchase eSchoolPlus, a Student Information System (SIS) in the second year of the grant. This new system is a version upgrade to HCPS existing SIS to accommodate the data collection required by current and future state/federal reporting.
The operating budget covers the licensing and other technical fees for HCPS current SIS; however, funding from RTTT will support purchasing the eSchoolPlus hardware and software and provide training for staff to use the new SIS. After the RTTT funding ends, HCPS will sustain the data integration system and future costs associated with this infrastructure.
Project Six: Coordinator of Teacher Induction – Total Four-Year Cost: $549,867 (Note: In addition to the cost of this employee, the total dollar amount includes the partial cost of one clerical worker and the cost of office equipment)
HCPS has hired a Coordinator of Teacher Induction, who reports to the Coordinator of Professional and Leadership Development. The Coordinator of Teacher Induction is charged with:
– Participating in the State’s Induction Program Academies and sending HCPS mentors as allowable by the state;
– Overseeing a comprehensive teacher induction program based on the model shared at the Teacher Induction Academies;
– Supervising the implementation of the mentor teacher program;
– Evaluating mentor teachers in collaboration with school administrators;
– Collaborating with the Office of Education Services to assess school needs;
– Assigning mentor teachers as appropriate; and
– Serving as a liaison to MSDE.
The RTTT funding also supports a contracted 0.4 clerical position, without benefits, to assist the Coordinator of Teacher Induction. This position will not be sustained after the completion of the grant.
Project Seven: Teacher Effectiveness Academy –Total Four-Year Cost: $378,375 (Note: Funds will be used to pay stipends to Master Teachers in each secondary school who will assist other teachers, plus the cost of substitutes to allow all classroom teachers to attend professional development)
As part of the reform effort, MSDE will hold Teacher Effectiveness Academies (TEA) throughout the state of Maryland, in which four-member teams from every school in the state will participate in professional development regarding curricular and instructional initiatives. HCPS will ensure all 54 schools send teams to participate in the TEA. These teams are currently being identified by the RTTT Program Manager in concert with the Executive Directors of Elementary, Middle, and High School Performance.
As follow-up from the TEA, school-based teams will identify additional key faculty members unable to attend the Academy and train them in the information presented. These faculty members will be assistant principals, instructional facilitators, curriculum supervisors and coordinators, mentor teachers, core content teachers and/or special educators.
Throughout all four years of the grant, all HCPS teachers will be trained in the Instructional Improvement System. HCPS is hosting one of Maryland’s TEAs July 11-13 at C. Milton Wright High School. Furthermore, HCPS teachers had the opportunity to apply to be a MSDE Master Teacher for the TEAs. The Master Teachers will be hired and trained by MSDE staff to deliver the professional development to TEA participants throughout the state of Maryland.
Project Eight: Secondary School Improvement Initiative – Total Cost: $50,470 (Note: Funds will be used for contracted services/consulting fees for professional development in year two of the grant.)
The RTTT Project Manager, Executive Directors of Secondary School Performance, the Executive Director of Community Engagement and Cultural Proficiency, and the Coordinator of School Improvement will plan and implement secondary school improvement initiatives during year two of the RTTT grant. The HCPS Coordinator of School Improvement will use lessons learned through the State Breakthrough model and replicate those efforts in our secondary schools which could include:
– Classroom-Focused Improvement Process (CFIP);
– Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS);
– Performance Matters; and
– STEM Activities will be a part of the School Improvement Plans