While it has taken a back seat to Race to the Top talk (and is shouldn’t since it is worth far more to the winning school districts than any RttT or i3 innovation), folks are still waiting to see who the Gates Foundation will award their Deep Dive teacher improvement grants to. Earlier this fall, the pool was narrowed down to five — Pittsburgh, Memphis, Hillsborough County (FL), Oklahoma City, and a consortium of charter schools in Los Angeles. The talk has long been the four winners will split the $500 million Gates is committing to the project.
On several occasions, Eduflack has asked why we continue to refer to an unnamed consortium of charter schools in the City of Angels, and just come out and say Green Dot. Seems the logical choice, based on Gates’ ongoing support for Green Dot, current plans to expand the charter network on the East Coast, and the favor with which Green Dot is held by Duncan and his crew at ED.
But an Eduflack reader has recently pointed out that Green Dot is but part of the teacher quality petri dish that Gates is looking for in Los Angeles. They are using the consortium of charter schools language to describe plans to invest in a group of charter school organizations out on the left coast. Should LA win, the likely recipients of Deep Dive dollars would include LA-area schools led by the Alliance for College Ready Public Schools, Aspire, the Inner City Education Foundation, Partnership to Uplift Communities, and, yes, Green Dot.
And how much will these trailblazing charters have to spend on the identification, cultivation, instruction, and incentivization of effective teaching? That still seems to be up in the air. Since the Deep Dive plan was first discussed earlier this year, we’ve been hearing four districts, $500 million. Dear ole Eduflack did fairly well on the math portion of his SATs way back when, and my abacus tells me that works out to about $125 million per Deep Dive district.
In yesterday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there is an interesting story about how Pittsburgh is working to provide a new contract for whiz superintendent Mark Roosevelt, whose contract is set to expire in a year and a half. The full piece can be found here, but the article cites that Pittsburgh is being fast-tracked for Gates Deep Dive money, and has requested $50 million for its teacher efforts.
So it begs the question. If the finalists are requesting a specific amount of dollars for their plan, instead of working under the assumption of an equal allocation of the pot, what will happen to the excess money in the fund? Will the four winners go back for additional rounds of funding? Will Gates open up a phase two to other districts who try to model what the first cohort is doing? Will some districts, like Pittsburgh seek $50 million while others look for $150 or $200 million for their ideas?
Regardless, this is A LOT of money going into a few districts to focus on teacher quality. And it is far, far more than even the best district can hope to gain through RttT or other federal programs. Significant eyes will be on the winners and their plans, with many a reformer (and a status quoer) expecting to see immediate results. Unfair? Yes. But in our rush for broad and immediate school improvement, we don’t have time for programs to mature and develop. We need our results now. Pittsburgh, Green Dot, and others are going to have high expectations to reach with those oversized Gates checks.