Race To The Top Phase 3

Frequently Asked Questions

RTTT3Inquiries@doe.state.nj.us

General | Budget/Funding | EWEG | Project Area 1: CCSS/NJ Model Curriculum | Project Area 2: IIS
Project Area 3: STEM Education | Project Area 4: Teacher Evaluation | Project Area 5: Charter Expansion

General RTTT3 Questions:

G.1 - What is Race to the Top Phase 3 (RTTT3)?

Race to the Top (RTTT) is a competitive grant program intended to encourage and reward states and districts that are implementing significant reforms in the four education areas described in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA): enhancing standards and assessments, improving the collection and use of data, increasing teacher effectiveness and achieving equity in teacher distribution, and turning around struggling schools. The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) awarded approximately $4 billion to 12 states under Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the RTTT competition.  USDOE then invited the nine unfunded finalist states from RTTT Phase 2 to apply for funding in Phase 3 to enable them to implement meaningful portions of their comprehensive Phase 2 plans.   On December 22, 2011, New Jersey received $37,847,648 from Race to the Top Phase 3 (RTTT3) available funds.

G.2 - How can Local Education Agencies (LEAs) be included in RTTT3?

By law, NJDOE is required to allocate 50 percent of its RTTT3 award to participating LEAs that agree to implement a meaningful portion of the state’s RTTT3 plan.  A total of  $18,923,824 has been allocated to New Jersey’s RTTT3 participating LEAs.

G.3 - What is a “participating LEA” in RTTT3?

A participating LEA is one that received Title I, Part A funding in federal fiscal year 2011 (FY11) and that agrees to implement a meaningful portion of the state’s RTTT3 plan. Participating LEAs receive a portion of the 50 percent of RTTT3 funds allocated to the state for participating LEAs.

G.4 - What does it mean to be an “involved LEA” in RTTT3?

An involved LEA is one that did NOT receive Title I, Part A funding in federal fiscal year 2011 (FY11) but that chooses to be involved in the state’s RTTT3 plan and participate in elements of the state’s plan.  Involved LEAs do NOT receive a portion of the 50 percent of RTTT3 funds allocated to the state for participating LEAs, but ARE eligible to apply for sub-grants from the state’s share of the 50 percent of funding.  For example, these sub-grants will provide funds to implement the instructional improvement system (IIS) across schools in a district.  Finally, involved LEAs will also be invited to any professional development or best-practice sharing opportunities that the state provides for participating and involved LEAs over the course of the grant.

G.5 - How much money will participating LEAs receive and how are the allocations calculated?

Allocations for participating LEAs are based on each LEA’s relative share of funding under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), sometimes referred to as the “section 14006(c) sub-grants.”  Minimum allocations for participating LEAs were calculated as required by USDOE:

  1. First determine the LEA’s proportionate share of total FY 2011 allocations under Title I, Part A of the ESEA for all LEAs; and then
  2. Multiply the LEA’s Title I, Part A proportionate share by the amount of funds that the state will use to make sub-grants to participating LEAs, which must be at least 50 percent of the state’s Phase 3 award.

Final allocations for participating LEAs can be found here: http://www.nj.gov/education/rttt3/updates/

* There are currently 346 participating LEAs and 28 involved LEAs

G.6 - How did a district become a participating or involved LEA, and what were the requirements for each?

In order to become a participating LEA, a district must have signed a Memorandum of Understanding and complete Exhibit I (a preliminary scope of work). Participating LEAs must also complete a final scope of work which will be available via the Electronic Web-Enabled Grant system (EWEG). The final scope of work will include the participating LEA’s goals, plan, activities and other information for how a participating LEA plans to spend its allocation. Final scope of work descriptions must align with the state’s RTTT3 plan and will be approved by NJDOE staff. Participating LEAs will also be required to report regularly to the state on the progress against their scope of work goals and plans.  
For more information on the scope of work process, allowable expenditures for participating LEAs and other information, please read the Notice of Grant Opportunity (NGO) on the RTTT3 Web site:  http://www.nj.gov/education/rttt3/updates/

G.7 - Can an LEA that elected to participate choose to withdraw from participation at a later date?

NJDOE expects that all LEAs signing up to be “participating” or “involved” fully intend to implement plans aligned with the state’s and work with the state and other LEAs throughout the entire life of the grant.  The state will minimize burdens placed on LEAs to encourage continued participation.  However, an LEA is legally entitled to withdraw from participation if it so chooses.  In these cases, the LEA will then forfeit its allocation.

G.8 - What is the schedule for the participating LEA scope of work process?

For more guidance, please read the USDOE FAQ located here:  http://www.nj.gov/education/rttt3/resources/faqus.pdf

LEA Scopes of Work

G.9 - Is the webinar on March 6 archived?

The full Webinar can be viewed here: RTTT3 Technical Assistance Session - March 6th, 2012

G.10 - Is there a budget template similar to NCLB that NJDOE wants LEAs to use?

Yes, the budget template will be posted on the RTTT3 Web site: www.state.nj.us/education/rttt3

G.11 - What is the minimum number of projects LEAs must focus on?

LEAs must choose at least one project, but it can choose to focus on one project or multiple projects.

G.12 - Can you add an area to focus on that is not in your initial statement of assurances?

Yes, areas that were initially marked in the MOU/preliminary scope of work can be amended to reflect where you would like to allocate your funds as you fill out your EWEG application (SOW). We want districts to be strategic and choose the number of projects that work for them  whether that is one project or multiple projects. The MOU was not binding, it was intended to be a preliminary overview for the department to help provide support.

G.13 - Is an LEA expected to serve all schools with RTTT3 funds or a subset of schools? Our district has priority and focus schools.

We do not have a threshold for how many schools must be funded. The department  has requested that, in your project description,  you provide a strategic explanation for which schools will be using the funds and why you are focusing on some or all of the schools in your district.

G.14 - Approximately how much should LEAs budget for required USDOE and NJDOE meetings?

At this time there are no scheduled meetings for LEAs to attend in Trenton, NJ at the department. There will not be any meetings scheduled to meet nationally with the USDOE.

Budget/Funding: Top Arrow

BF.1 - Is there a budget template similar to NCLB that you want LEAs to use?

Yes, the budget template will be posted next to the NGO on the RTTT3 Web site: www.state.nj.us/education/rttt3

BF.2 - How much money will participating LEAs receive and how are the allocations calculated?

Allocations for participating LEAs are based on each LEA’s relative share of funding under Title I, Part A of the ESEA, sometimes referred to as the “section 14006(c) sub-grants.”  Minimum allocations for participating LEAs were calculated as required by USDOE:

  1. First determine the LEA’s proportionate share of total FY 2011 allocations under Title I, Part A of the ESEA for all LEAs; and then
  2. Multiply the LEA’s Title I, Part A proportionate share by the amount of funds that the state will use to make sub-grants to participating LEAs, which must be at least 50 percent of the state’s Phase 3 award.

Final allocations for participating LEAs can be found here:  http://www.nj.gov/education/rttt3/updates/

BF.3 - Is our grant money per year or a onetime allocation?

The allocation is a single total that you receive to cover the four years of the grant.  It will not be renewed each year.

BF.4 - Can you use all of the funds in year one?

Yes, but keep in mind that the grant covers a four-year period and where you utilize those funds needs to have lasting outcomes over the four years of the grant.

BF.5- Can an LEA submit goals, objectives, and activities and hold off on a budget until clarifications are posted?

No, the department needs a budget by March 21, 2012 at 4 p.m. We will work with you to help you create and refine a comprehensive and specific budget during the conditional and formal approval period.

BF.6 - What is the timeframe for a review of the expenditures?  Is it done on a yearly basis?

Reporting is on a quarterly basis, and districts will provide quarterly updates on expenditures and progress on objectives and goals.

BF.7 - Will reporting continue to be quarterly if the funds are spent in one lump sum?

The department still wants to see progress toward objectives and milestones, so we still want to see reporting on the program side on a quarterly basis.  The fiscal reporting guidelines are to be determined.

BF.8 - Which expense lines should be used in the budget?

Please consult your business administrator (BA). There is also a quick reference guide on the Office of Grants Management Web site: http://www.state.nj.us/education/grants/

BF.9 - Will LEAs receive funds prior to expenditures?

All payments will be done as a result of reimbursements. There will not be any advance payments to any districts.

EWEG: Top Arrow

E.1 - Is EWEG up and running for RTTT3?

Yes.  It has been up since February 29, 2012. You can find the login here: http://njdoe.ewegp.mtwgms.org/NJDOEGMSWeb/logon.aspx

Please e-mail: eweghelp@doe.state.nj.us if you have any questions relating to EWEG

E.2 - In EWEG there is space for five goals.  Is that in case we develop five goals or do you want a goal per year of the project?

The department wants to see at least one goal for each project area you choose that encompasses the four years of the grant. More goals are encouraged, but we need to see at least one.  Aligned to that we expect annual objectives that measure progress over the four years towards the goal.

E.3 - Are the objectives all to be entered now with the initial scope of work, or can they be modified as we proceed through the four years of the grant?

The department would like to see all of the objectives for the four years of the grant now, but there will be a process to allow districts to modify plans as more data and information become available over the four-year term of the grant.  We will share more information on this in the future.

E.4 - Why are there only two boxes in EWEG for Year 1 reporting?

If you look at the reporting periods listed in the NGO, the first year of the project is only six months, July to December, and the second year picks up in January. Therefore, there are only two quarterly reports in year 1 (2012).

The reporting periods are:

Year 1 (2012)

Interim 1 July 1, 2012 – September 30, 2012 (due October 31, 2012)
Year 1 Progress July 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012 (due January 31, 2013)

Year 2 (2013)

Interim 1 January 1, 2013 – March 31, 2013 (due April 30, 2013)
Interim 2 January 1, 2013 – June 30, 2013 (due July 31, 2013)
Interim 3 January 1, 2013 – September 30, 2013 (due October 31, 2013)
Year 2 Progress  January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013 (due January 31, 2014)

Year 3 (2014)

Interim 1 January 1, 2014 – March 31, 2014 (due April 30, 2014)
Interim 2 January 1, 2014 – June 30, 2014 (due July 31, 2014)
Interim 3 January 1, 2014 – September 30, 2014 (due October 31, 2014)
Year 3 Progress  January 1, 2014 – December 31, 2014 (due January 31, 2015)

Year 4 (2015)

Interim 1 January 1, 2015 – March 31, 2015 (due April 30, 2015)
Interim 2 January 1, 2015 – June 30, 2015 (due July 31, 2015)
Interim 3 January 1, 2015 – September 30, 2015 (due October 31, 2015)
Year 4 Final  January 1, 2015 – November 30, 2015 (due December 31, 2015)

E.5 - If an LEA is bringing in a staff developer, does that get budgeted in EWEG under other?

Yes, it does.

E.6 - Can we submit goals, objectives, and activities and hold off on a budget until clarifications are posted?

No, the department needs a budget by March 21, 2012 at 4 p.m.  We will work with you to help you create and refine a comprehensive and specific budget during the conditional and formal approval period.

Project Area 1: Professional development and technology support to advance the transition to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Top Arrow

PA1.1 - If we use an independent staff developer  what sort of background information on his/her qualifications should an LEA submit?

A proven background of high-quality professional development experience is encouraged. What is important here are specific goals and proposed outcomes that the staff developer will meet in aligning the professional development to support the transition to CCSS or the NJ Model Curriculum. Your project description should justify why you believe the staff developer you chose meets high standards and is aligned to the project area chosen.

PA1.2 - Does that mean that any professional development is approved if it is focused on standard alignment?

LEAs should follow the guidelines for professional development on the NGO - pg. 9: Notice of Grant Opportunity. The department will be looking for professional development to be aligned to those points.

Student learning objectives will be released over the next few months with a complete version of the NJ Model Curriculum being released on June 30. In September, all schools K-12 will use CCSS for math and English language arts (ELA).

PA1.3 - What are "approved intervention models"?

"Approved intervention models” are research-based models with data to support their success.

PA1.4 - If you are looking to align district curriculum maps to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) over the summer, can race to top funds be used to bring in staff developers?

Districts should be using funds to support the professional development for transition to CCSS as opposed to developing curricula supports. Please review the professional development guidelines in the NGO - pg. 9: Notice of Grant Opportunity.

PA1.5 - Will there be state-approved third-party contractors for professional technical services or does each district have to write Requests for Proposals (RFPs)?

There is not a list of state-approved vendors in this area. Districts have to put out RFPs.

PA1.6 - Can funds used for Project Area 1 be used for technology, such as laptops or iPads, to facilitate the collection of formative assessment data and/or walkthrough data?

No. The only technology that should be purchased is to support the professional development for transition to CCSS. Refer to the NGO for those guidelines - pg. 9: Notice of Grant Opportunity.

PA1.7 - Are stipends allowed for teachers attending professional development over the summer?

Yes, this is allowable (this is an ineligible cost in project area 4).

PA1.8 – Can funds be used to pay for substitutes while teachers are attending professional development?

Yes, funds can be used in this way (this is an ineligible cost in project area 4).

Project Area 2. Implementation of the Instructional Improvement System (IIS) platform Top Arrow

PA2.1 - Will there be any realistic parts of an IIS to implement in 2012-2013 or should LEAs focus on the other three years as options?

The system will not be implemented until the 2013-2014 school year.  You will not have to focus funds in the first year towards this, but may want to save funds to implement the program in the following years.  The department will provide further guidance around this in the future.  For now please see the IIS description here: http://www.state.nj.us/education/rttt3/updates/iis.pdf

PA2.2 - Are you permitted to include other measures in the IIS such as North West Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP) assessments?

The system is flexible to include any assessments you choose at a school or district level to assess your students. It is advisable to confirm that assessments you are currently using are aligned to the CCSS.

Project Area 3: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Top Arrow

 

Project Area 4. Implementation of New Teacher and Leader Evaluation Systems Top Arrow

PA4.1 - Can you provide an example (goals, objectives etc.) in terms of a new teacher evaluation system?

Milestones and metrics that we are looking for are such items such as the percentage of individuals you have trained, when you identified your framework and evidence that you have completed the number  of observations required during the year. 
Also see below:

Example of a SMART Goal: By the end of school year 2014-2015, 95% of teachers will agree that the district has provided high-quality support in order to implement a new teacher practice framework within their school.  

Objective(s) for 2012-13:

Implementation Activities:

  • Agree upon a teacher practice framework by January 2013;
  • Train 100% of teachers on teacher practice framework and rubric by June 2013
  • Create District Evaluation Advisory Committee by Nov. 2012
  •  Review various frameworks and select a teacher practice framework by Jan. 2013
  • Design and execute teacher training on new teacher practice framework and rubric using a train the trainer process by June 2013
  • Tie individual teachers’ feedback from observations to targeted professional development

PA4.2 - If we choose to work on teacher evaluation as our scope of work, do we need to complete the evaluation process for all schools in 2013-14 or can we extend it to 2014-15?

The department is  looking for full implementation by 2013-14.

PA4.3 - If one of our goals is a teacher evaluation system and if that is fully implemented in 2013-14 would that also count as a goal in 2014-15?

Yes, the same goal would be applicable, but the annual objectives would change as you advance towards the goal. For instance, early on your objectives would be around training and calibration of observers and then as you implement they might be focused around development of summary ratings or fidelity of observations.  Even though the system will be implemented in 2013-14, you still need to apply objectives that improve the system or usage.

PA4.4 - The teacher evaluation project requirements include training. Can some of the funds be used for the training and some for the purchase of the system itself?

Yes. Funds can be used for any aspect of implementing the system.

PA4.5 - Will the state come out with a plan on using student achievement data in teacher evaluations or will districts be able to design their own?

For 4th through 8th grade, a significant portion of the student achievement data in ELA and math will come from the NJASK results.  For other subjects, there will be flexibility at the local level to determine how this will be measured.

PA4.6 - Does student achievement data need to be part of the activity plan for implementing the teacher evaluation tool? Does this include state and district tests?

Yes, student achievement data is critical, and it does include state and district tests.

PA4.7 Can you pay for substitutes or stipends for teachers over the summer 2012?

No. You can not pay for these services (this is an eligible cost in project area 1 but ineligible in this project)

Project Area 5: Charter School Improvements and Expansion Top Arrow

PA5.1 Can you provide an example of an approvable charter school expansion activity or project?

If the LEA is a charter school, then the types of activities could be expanding grades or enrollment.  Or if the school is considering an innovation partnership with another charter or local school district, that would count.