The Baltimore school system plans to use more than half of its $52.7 million in Race to the Top funds to develop a system to pay and evaluate its educators, continuing the momentum in the district to drastically improve teacher quality.
School officials presented their Race to the Top plans to the city school board, explaining how the city would spend its share of the state's $250 million federal award, which Maryland won last year from the U.S. Department of Education to propel education reform efforts.
The federal Race to the Top funds are intended to be used for long-term data tracking systems, to improve the quality of teaching and to turn around the worst schools.
Baltimore was awarded the largest chunk of the state's funding, which was spread across 22 districts that signed on to Maryland's initial application for the program. The districts had to submit plans for how they would spend their money to the U.S. Department of Education in November. School systems will start receiving the money in 2011, and the allocation is to be used over four years.
The Education Department accepted the city's proposal, Tisha Edwards, the chief of staff to schools CEO Andrés Alonso, told city school board members during a presentation in December of the district's plans.
The bulk of the city's federal funds, $28.6 million, will be used to develop a teacher evaluation and compensation system, Edwards said.
The system will support many of the radical initiatives outlined in a landmark contract that gave teachers a significant pay increase in December but will begin to tie student performance to salaries. Baltimore's teachers union was one of two in the state to endorse the Race to the Top application.
Race to the Top funding cannot be used for salaries, but school officials said the teachers' new contract coincided with the district's ability to pay for the new initiatives outlined in the pact.
"Some of it is the new contract, and making sure that we have the substance and the resources in place to support it," said Sonja Santelesis, chief academic officer for city schools. "We know that teacher effectiveness can really make a difference if we do it right."
The Race to the Top funds will go toward developing an evaluation system that will measure student growth, and a system to evaluate teachers who do not teach subjects that are measured by state and federal standardized tests.
Another $10 million will go toward professional development, such as providing more mentors for teachers, and tracking the effectiveness of such programs.
Nearly $9 million will be invested in technology, Edwards said, including hardware and infrastructure upgrades at 193 city schools to include wireless Internet access. The district will invest an added $4 million in designing online assessments for students in kindergarten through third grade and sixth through ninth grade to meet a state requirement that takes effect in 2014.
Lastly, $1 million will go toward turning around the city's struggling schools — the least amount the district plans to spend even though it is among the highest federal priorities. School officials said they prioritized their spending based on programs that had not received funding from other sources.