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Director of Schools discusses Race to the Top funding, appointment to state advisory board

Tennessee and Delaware were the only two states chosen as winners for federal “Race for the Top” funding, money that means big changes for education in the Volunteer State – more than $502 million worth.
That distinction means additional funding will soon make its way into the Washington County school system.
Nearly $1.5 million will come into the county over a four-year period, according to Director of Schools Ron Dykes. When all is said and done, that should mean Washington County will receive about $375,000 per year, Dykes said.
“This is an initiative of the federal government,” Dykes said. “They are looking for states that can establish a template, a national model. The states are going to be using a tremendous amount of data of teacher evaluation tied to student performance. This is a data-driven reform.”
“They essentially dangled this money in front of the states to see if they could establish such a model. Tennessee will be that model.”
Within three to four years the federal government will want a national standard, Dykes said.
“The purpose (of the proposed reform) is to close the achievement gaps in all the sub-groups,” Dykes says. “Tennessee began by increasing the rigor of the curriculum as well as trying to show a relationship regarding students performance with instruction.”
According to Dykes, as a result of be selected, each school system in Tennessee will need to submit a plan to the state department which will include “innovative strategies to address the at risk population and to implement staff development techniques that will concentrate on best practices.”
The next step is to finalize plans for the state. That should be completed by very late spring or early summer, Dykes says. He adds that he expects to begin receiving the funding “sometime around October”.

Washington County Director of Schools, Ron Dykes will be a key component of the Tennessee’s education reform, having been selected as a member of a the Teacher Education Redesign Director of Schools Advisory Board.
The group will with the Tennessee Teaching Quality Initiative (TQI), a plan which was developed by the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR). The Initiative ‘s goal is to oversee and make recommendations for teacher preparation curriculum redesign.
Dykes traveled to Nashville on Wednesday to meet with the TBR group and says he is “very pleased” with the progress made during the day-long work session.
“We sat down as a task force and then broke off into small groups,” Dykes says. “We concentrated on those skills and techniques that new teachers would need to hit the ground running on Day One.”
“As a result of that,” he added, “I think we were able to set some groundwork for future meetings. It was very productive and I was extremely pleased because the entire Board of Regents are involved. They want to closely partner with local school districts.”
“Higher education has always attempted to develop curriculum without input from the professionals in the field of education,” Dykes says. “That’s not to say they never come to us for suggestions. But this will definitely help fine-tune the teacher preparation curriculum to work with the curriculum changes which have just occurred.”
According to the TBR website, the redesign plan seeks to virtually eliminate the traditional university classroom seat time to provide teacher candidates with onsite real-world clinical experiences, which would involve implementing a year-long clinical residency school-based for teachers in training.