The Indiana Department of Education wasn't alone in insisting that teacher union buy-in was a necessity in securing Race to the Top dollars. This excellent commentary published by Education Week puts the myth to rest:
"Several states secured as much buy-in as the winners but still finished far behind them. Some of those states, like Utah and Kansas, didn't even qualify for the finals. Idaho secured support from every single union in the state, but managed only a 28th-place finish. Buy-in was not enough to make up for major weaknesses in these states' applications.
"At the same time, states with relatively low buy-in still came very close to winning. Florida finished in fourth place even though only 8 percent of local unions signed on to its plan. Louisiana earned the highest score in the contest's most heavily weighted category—"great teachers and leaders"—despite earning support from fewer than half its districts. Both states could have scored even higher by correcting specific deficiencies in their applications that had nothing to do with stakeholder support. Louisiana, for example, lost just 6 points on local buy-in, but 15 points for inadequately addressing the application section on math and science education."
Dan Weisberg of the New Teacher Project goes on to suggest that the key to winning the RttT stakes was for a state application to offer "vision and leadership."
"Tennessee and Delaware distinguished themselves by committing to bold, comprehensive reforms, such as creating rigorous teacher evaluations tied to student learning and making big changes in failing schools," he writes. "They built their plans around changes to state laws, ensuring that all districts would faithfully implement the policies that were passed. They recognized that incorporating feedback from teachers and other stakeholders would strengthen their applications, but they made participation in the dialogue contingent on a commitment to sensible reforms."
Coincidentally, that formula perfectly describes the plan Fort Wayne Community Schools has devised in turning around 11 of its lowest-achieving schools -- with the full cooperation of its teachers union. Perhaps the state could have benefited from the district's vision and leadership.