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R2T reviewers wanted the nitty-gritty

“We’re happy with our performance, but they were hard to read,” Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien said Tuesday following a 90-minute meeting in Washington, D.C., with the reviewers who evaluated the state’s Race to the Top application.

O’Brien and education Commissioner Dwight Jones, who held a conference call with reporters afterwards, said the five reviewers asked lots of very detailed questions about the state’s application, particularly about how the plan would use education data and about planned improvements in educator development.

“I did not expect the level of detail,” Jones said. “In some cases they actually went to page numbers they wanted us to respond to.” He said Colorado Department of Education executives Nina Lopez and Rich Wenning fielded many of those detail questions.

For example, part of the state’s $377 million application involves improved collection and analysis of education data and also posting it to SchoolView.org, CDE’s public school information portal.

O’Brien said the examiners asked question like how the state knew the public would actually use SchoolView.

The Colorado team met with the reviewers for 90 minutes at a Washington hotel. U.S. Department of Education officials sat in on the meeting, which was recorded. The team had 30 minutes to make its case, and the examiners asked questions for an hour.

O’Brien and Jones said the team used their 30 minutes to explain how Colorado’s application would affect the four R2T “assurance” areas – standards and testing, data systems that improve student learning and teacher effectiveness, improvement of educator effectiveness and turning around low-performing schools.

The lieutenant governor said their presentation stressed that “we have a very high degree of confidence that we can implement” Colorado’s plan, in contrast to other states.

The reviewers didn’t ask any questions about teacher evaluation or about the new Educator Effectiveness Council, which will be working on a new evaluation system over the next 18 months.

“They didn’t ask us a single question about that,” O’Brien said. “We spent a lot of time in our 30-minute presentation talking about how our teacher effectiveness plan would work … but we didn’t get any questions about it. … I’m taking it that they liked our plan and didn’t need to drill down.”

The reviewers did ask about the state’s plans for educator professional development and training, O’Brien and Jones said.

Asked if the group had had a chance to compare notes with delegations representing the other 15 finalists, O’Brien said, “Everyone was being very cordial but very guarded out in the hallways,” Maybe “we’ll trade some stories later on this evening,” she added.

State representatives also were briefed Tuesday about some of the budgeting aspects of the $4 billion R2T program. Lopez told EdNews that the meeting didn’t yield a lot of new details, but that federal officials were clear “There will be negotiations around budget.” Lopez said it wasn’t made clear if those would start before or after winners are selected.

In addition to O’Brien, Jones, Lopez and Wenning, the Colorado presentation team included Linda Barker, director of teaching and learning for the Colorado Education Association.

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