Not everyone is celebrating: Critics say Race to the Top won’t bring real reform

Amid the local applause over Race to the Top now that Georgia entered the winner’s circle, I thought I would serve up a contrary view of the federal grant program.

From Neal P. McCluskey, associate director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute:

So the much ballyhooed Race to the Top program – $4.35 billion out of nearly $110 billion in federal education stimulus and bailouts – is over, with today’s announcement of ten round-two winners. Who knows for sure how the winners were ultimately determined – point allocation was highly subjective – but it’s hard to be impressed by the list: the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island.

New York? Recent revelations about dumbed-down Regents exams hardly make it seem like a paragon of honest reform. Hawaii? How did last years’ school-free Fridays help them stack up so high? Maryland? Fostering charter schools was supposed to be important, but it has one of the most constricting charter laws in the nation. And Massachusetts? Well, it’s easy to see how it won – it just dropped its own, often-considered nation-leading curriculum standards to adopt national standards demanded by Race to the Top.

In the end, though, how states were chosen really doesn’t matter that much. Why? Because the race was based mainly on who could make the biggest, fastest promises of reform, not who was actually, meaningfully reforming things. So, at the very least, we should all hold our applause for both the winners and the race for several years, because promises are easy – real change is tough.

And here is the statement from Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform:

Race to the Top’ ended today not with a bang but with a whimper, with a majority of competitors winning—10 of the 19—and many, it appears, for political reasons, as these states offer little or nothing to fundamentally improve schools and learning for all children.

While the District of Columbia and Florida deserve to be rewarded for their strong and often controversial commitment to education reform, it does not appear that they “won” the race for the same reasons most reformers regard them highly. School choice and charter school programs did not matter much in ‘Race to the Top’ scoring, but it’s likely that teacher contract reform counted for something in the case of DC. However, while Florida leads the pack in the use of data for accountability, the governor’s recent veto of a teacher tenure reform bill raises questions about this ‘Race to the Top’ award and the Administration’s real views on teacher contract reform.

Awarding money to states like Maryland and Hawaii, which have done little to provide enhanced opportunities to children to close the achievement gap, diminishes the impact of this competition.

Throughout the process, states got much credit for making changes to laws that, in most cases, will have little to no impact as long as teacher contracts control the classroom and quality school choices are limited or nonexistent. While there is no question that ‘Race to the Top’ has been the Administration’s positive bully pulpit on education, the dramatic need for laws to change remains largely undone. Because state legislators have neglected their responsibility to put children’s interest ahead of adults, we hope that this fall’s elections, which have the potential to turn over the majority of statehouses, will usher in bold and urgent reform regardless of the impact of federal policy measures.

80 comments Add your comment

Bloodbike

August 24th, 2010
12:52 pm

Whatever. Our state needed the money and I’m one happy citizen of Georgia. We needed the money and if we have to play th egame to get the help then play well Ga.

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East Cobb Parent

August 24th, 2010
1:00 pm

I’m thankful for small things, at least Cobb did not sign on for RTTT.

shellybean

August 24th, 2010
1:07 pm

Georgia schools are more enslaved to the Federal Government even more. Hopefully the children of this state will actually get to see this money put to good use rather than lining the pockets of all those in administration who play the political game. Such a shame!

Ray

August 24th, 2010
1:08 pm

When our local politicians lack the fortitude to provide the necessary funding, we have no other choice.

HS Teacher

August 24th, 2010
1:10 pm

Yes, we needed the money. But, I wonder what happens if a State (GA) does not do what they want us to do…. Will they take the money back?

PappyHappy

August 24th, 2010
1:12 pm

Well, maybe the $400 Million — if used wisely — will jump start a public school system in dire need of repair. Folks, WE ARE NOT GOING TO GET THE ‘GOOD’ JOBS IF WE CANNOT TURN OUT A WORK FORCE!!

Just how long is it going to take us to move public education into the 21st Century? We still have a system that was developed allowing ‘farming’ and ‘harvesting’ in the summers and fall!

* Why do our kids go for 12 years when Korea (who is now beating us in just about every category) goes for only 11? (That would save some money!!)

*Why do we spend so much time on social engineering and self esteem, when our kids are failing at math, science, and English?

* Why are so many of our teachers and administrators ill prepared to teach in the 21st Century after graduation from our schools of education?

* (FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL-TAXPAYER FUNDED STUDENTS) What type of ’stick’ is applied against parents who allow their kids to drop out prior to graduation; become disruptive forces in school; and fail to provide parental support of the child while in school? LISTEN UP POLITICIANS — high school drop outs are tantamount to future welfare recipients. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?? What if …. what if Georgia child tax incentives and child benefits would be reduced if the parent did not perform adequate parental duties??

* What are we doing to rely more heavily on the use of present day technologies to reduce the demand for teachers/facilities/administrators, but resulting in better outcomes? How could we use ‘distance learning’ as an incentive for some students and parents?

*ON TESTING: why could we not move to an automated screen test where each student would answer questions on a specific test, and then submit (click) the completed test to a central repository for grading? Four to five different tests (measuring the same subject) could be developed to preclude cheating, or sharing answers. (THE KIDS ARE CAPABLE OF USING THE TECHNOLOGY! How about the administrators???)

*Why do we try to prepare 100% of our kids to go to college when only about 26% – 27% ultimately graduate with a four year degree, yet we have many technical and trades type jobs going vacant today in the USA? Why aren’t we using dual tracks like some successful countries to capitalize on the skills of the kids?

* What are we doing to increase the hours students spend on SUBJECT MATTERS THAT WILL MAKE THE EMPLOYABLE, i.e., math, English, foreign languages, hard sciences, and basic economics? (YOU CAN OMIT EBONICS!!)

A lot of our problems lay at the feet of our erstwhile public policy developers — KNOWN AS POLITICIANS!

Time for them (politicians) to grow some spines, MINUS TEACHER UNIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS, and develop some tough policies that will make Georgia competitive in the future!

LLL

August 24th, 2010
1:18 pm

So, from this particular organization’s perspective, a meaningful “reform” must include school choices and abolishing teacher tenure. Interesting.

ABC

August 24th, 2010
1:19 pm

To East Cobb Parent: what do you mean? Can local schools opt out of this? It shames me that I am THAT misinformed on this!

RJ

August 24th, 2010
1:19 pm

@PappyHappy, well said. And yes, you can omit Ebonics since it’s absolute nonsense!

Dunwoody Mom

August 24th, 2010
1:23 pm

We have school systems, see DeKalb, that misuse Title 1 funds now. How are we to make sure the RTTT funds are going to be used properly?

brian22

August 24th, 2010
1:26 pm

PappyHappy: “*Why do we spend so much time on social engineering and self esteem, when our kids are failing at math, science, and English?”

Hey, Happy, why don’t we just cancel math and have a kumbaya class?

Maureen Downey

August 24th, 2010
1:34 pm

@HS Teacher, I just asked that exact question to Secretary Duncan.
Yes, they will stop funding if we don’t follow our plan.

Ole Guy

August 24th, 2010
1:40 pm

Bloodbike, you keep refering to this “We” business. Just exactly what makes you think that this money will go anywhere near that for which it is intended? Ah, but for the innocense of ignorance!

Still@theBAR

August 24th, 2010
1:46 pm

Government education is just 14 years(pre-K-12th grade) of citizenry paid for baby sitting for most of Georgia students. Make education privite and paid for by the people that use it. Schools will better prepare the students at a better price and the Crappy teachers will have to fing JOBS.

Texas Pete

August 24th, 2010
1:51 pm

American schools “fail” because of crappy parents. What do teacher contracts have to do with kids being disrespectful to their teachers, fellow classmates, and themselves? What do standardized tests have to do with kids who don’t do homework because their parents do not encourage them, help them, or even make them? I don’t see many schoools that lack text books and a chalk or dry erase board. Many of us were taught with those materials and we do ok so why can’t our children learn today? Yes, it’s nice to have fancy new technology and textbooks but if we cannot afford them what’s stopping kids from learning from teacher instruction? What’s stopping kids from learning from their parents or tutors?

There are many valid political and economic gripes concerning the operation of public schools but those gripes all boogeymen reasons for poor student performance. Just look how school age children behave in general from out-of-control little ones to sinful teens and you have your answer for why we’re lagging behind countries we consider ourselves to be superior.

Have you people ever noticed that on political issues, every country in the world is wrong and the USA is right yet when it comes down to evaluating relative productivity considering resources and lifestyle that these same “wrong” countries seem to handle their business better than us? Americans need to stop being arrogant and riding the coat tails of the great accomplishments of previous generations.

We’re like a sports team fanbase who hasn’t won a championship in 30 years still harping about how great we are…

It starts at home. It’s the parents’ responsibility for making sure their children get an education, not any school or government. Now if you can show me cases where teachers refuse to teach or give homework and schools refuse to supply any learning materials at all, then we can talk about government being the primary reason for subpar performance.

Bring on the $400 million.

South Ga Teacher180

August 24th, 2010
1:57 pm

Race to the Bottom is a wolf in sheep’s clothing…you can thank Perdue, Cox, and Pruitt for this design…just remember folks…the GA legislation passed that set all of this up started in the Spring of 2008…OBAMA was not president yet…hmmmm….interesting how this was all laid out before him before he took over from Bush….king of sounds like a conspiracy to me.

Business As Usual?

August 24th, 2010
1:58 pm

I hope this doesn’t start another “race to cheat” within this state as program laden with money and no oversight often do. Let’s hope the state puts this money to a use that will actually aid in the eductation of children and not the enrichment of the entrenched eduction establishment.

Dr NO

August 24th, 2010
2:00 pm

More dollars wasted on the school systems. Nothing will change except perhaps things will get worse. Public schools are toilets and that will not change.

Missing the Point

August 24th, 2010
2:05 pm

Well said Texas Pete

Ray

August 24th, 2010
2:07 pm

No surprise those who oppose this are also the anti-government tea-baggers.

Dr NO

August 24th, 2010
2:08 pm

Good money after bad…thats what the libturds are all about.

“Socialism is fine until you run our of other peoples money.” Margaret Thather

catlady

August 24th, 2010
2:09 pm

LET’S RENAME IT RACE TO THE TROUGH!

reality check

August 24th, 2010
2:10 pm

This will result in more teacher paperwork to satisfy Bureaucrats leaving less time for teaching the kids

Dr NO

August 24th, 2010
2:13 pm

Tell Ayetollah Obama to take back this money and use it for his re-election campaign…not that it will do him any good, however, The States should have Fed $$$ with no strings attached.

Screw you Obama and DC.

Missing the Point

August 24th, 2010
2:23 pm

Judging by all the misspellings on this blog….Georgians really need the money for education!

GA Educator

August 24th, 2010
2:38 pm

Amen, Texas Pete! $400 million isn’t going to fix a child’s HOME LIFE, which is the most important influencing factor on their success in a classroom. The $400 million would be better off spent on parenting classes that offer tips on how to properly raise respectful, hard-working children.

Good one

August 24th, 2010
2:41 pm

“@HS Teacher, I just asked that exact question to Secretary Duncan.
Yes, they will stop funding if we don’t follow our plan.”

Chuckles, guffaw, guffaw! Catch Maureen Thursdays and Saturdays at The Laughing Skull Lounge.

Jan

August 24th, 2010
2:44 pm

Quit whinning and crying like some cowards afraid of the Feds. Get a grip.

Vindicated

August 24th, 2010
2:44 pm

Listen to Texas Pete and the rest of the MORONS. Only educate the few that can afford it, you know, the affluent. The remaining 74% can pick up a skill. How about the skill that they pick up is breaking into your home and taking YOUR stuff. Worst case they murder you are your family member for YOUR stuff.

You people try to be heartless but you do nothing more than show your IGNORNACE.

Every citizen deserves an opportunity at obtaining an education. It’s up to the individual whether or not they take full advantage of this opportunity. It’s too bad that often times our kids are taught by people who aren’t aware of what they don’t know.

Missing the Point

August 24th, 2010
2:48 pm

@Vindicated

What does parental involvement have to do with how rich or poor you are?

Ole Guy

August 24th, 2010
2:53 pm

Vindicated, have you and the guy who calls himself PBM been hangin out at the bar tradin sea stories?

Changewillnevercome

August 24th, 2010
3:03 pm

Tinytam

August 24th, 2010
3:03 pm

@ Dr No ~ Seriously? Just a question – what private school did you graduate from since you’re calling public schools “toilets” and you surely are not the product of such a place? Who are the people attending these schools that you call toilets that makes you decide to refer to them in such an offensive way? These are the same students who attending our colleges and universities and attempting to create a better future for themselves and their families. I am utterly offended by your statement and wonder if you spend any time attending school board meetings or offering any valuable ideas to the leadership of your local school(s) or trying to create a better environment for all students. Maybe you can find a more productive way to clean the “toilets” like running to become part of the solution and not the problem!

@ Texas Pete ~ Very well said indeed!! Superiority is quickly escaping the US and it’s not solely because of the public school systems. We are the same country that spouts such intolerance and closed mindedness for its own citizens and at the same time desires to transport our theory of government to other countries when we have not perfected it ourselves. I think we can all do our part to make improvements to our country’s conscienceness and status.

Lynn43

August 24th, 2010
3:05 pm

Please correct me if I am wrong, but school systems did not have to participate in this. My system did not. We didn’t need or want to. I believe that very little of this money will directly reach the students. It will be used on abstract programs which sound good but do very little to help students and more people to oversee the programs. I also believe that until the REAL reason for the learning gap is acknowledged and addressed, this gap will continue to exist and maybe become even wider. Money cannot fix this problem.

drew (former teacher)

August 24th, 2010
3:12 pm

PappyHappy…well said! And Maureen, there are about a half-dozen future blog ideas in his post.

+++

And Dr. No, it’s not that schools WILL not change, they simply CANNOT change. Yeah, we can “tweak” them, which is what we’ve been doing for decades, maybe introduce some new math here, or a new teaching strategy there, and of course some new standards and tests and some new educational “buzz words” every year, but the fact remains that education has become the grand-daddy of all bureaucracies, which makes it virtually impervious to change.

But maybe it can be killed. The technology that might enable us to shut down our schools (as we’ve known them) is here, and I think it’s just a matter of time before the responsibility of education gets back where it belongs…in the home, with parents and their children using a wide array or sources, public and private, online and local to obtain their education. Unfortunately, the current system is going to have to sink a lot lower before that happens.

+++

And lastly, Ms. Jeane Allen, from the Center for Education Reform says:
“Awarding money to states like Maryland and Hawaii which have done little to nothing to provide enhanced opportunities to children to close the achievement gap, diminishes the impact of this competition.”

I’ve never understood this fixation with the “achievement gap”? What “achievement gap” is she referring to? Male/female? Black/white? Black/Asian? White/Hispanic? Answer me this…if the smartest in our schools get dumb enough, will that close this “achievement gap”? If everyone “improves”, but the “gap” stays the same, have we made progress?

Dr NO

August 24th, 2010
3:17 pm

TT, I dont think so.

Michael

August 24th, 2010
3:24 pm

More paperwork indeed. Teachers spend hours and hours meeting about struggling students while those very students sit in a classroom with a parapro (because the teacher is in another meeting).

Just added another layer of paperwork.

But in the long run, all children are left behind if they don’t have a family resting on the foundation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Without Christ as our Lord, we’ll always be lost. That’s a fact. It’s also why our nation has turned to idol worship, literally. Singers, athletes, money, violence, scandal, etc. That’s what our nation worships.

The narrow path isn’t an easy road to travel, but it’s the right road.

drew (former teacher)

August 24th, 2010
3:24 pm

Vindicated…you mispelled IGNORANCE.

Good grief

August 24th, 2010
3:25 pm

Sorry to be a negative Nelly on this, but the state of Georgia gave up on educating its public school children a long time ago and I don’t think that the people in charge of the money will spend it wisely. They’ll figure out a way to mess this up. I live in DeKalb County and have lost ALL confidence in the state and local governments. I’m not pro-voucher or privatizing schools. Rather, I’m all for firing EVERYONE at the administrative levels and starting over with teachers—who have been in the classroom 7 years or longer–to run the schools.

Dr NO

August 24th, 2010
3:32 pm

APS could screw up an anvil.

oldtimer

August 24th, 2010
3:34 pm

Happy Pappy..well said.

[...] Not everyone is celebrating: Critic says Race to the Top rewarded politics …Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)“Race to the Top ended today not with a bang but with a whimper, with a majority of competitors winning—10 of the 18—and many, it appears, for political …NY gets up to $700M in Race to the Top fundsCrain’s New York Businessall 906 news articles » [...]

CDog

August 24th, 2010
3:56 pm

Separation of school and state is the only meaningful long-term reform. Education is not a right and the government should not be determining who learns what. Every student has individual, specific, different educational needs. Every parent has different things they want emphasized in their child’s education. Different values, different priorities, different beliefs. No one-size fits all public education system can accommodate all of these different needs. When students have a choice as to where they go to school and schools have a choice as to whom they let in, then you will have a thriving, successful education system.

Publius

August 24th, 2010
4:04 pm

Hey local control advocates — Georgia’s really done a great job on its own up until now, hasn’t it? How can anyone argue that we don’t need Federal oversight in this state. Our schools, on average, are just plain sorry.

(Not to mention that these are grants to let STATES take the lead in implementing reforms.)

[...] Continued here: Not everyone is celebrating: Critics say Race to the Top won't … [...]

Publius

August 24th, 2010
4:08 pm

@ CDog – Where’s your proof for that? Maybe the 19th century, when only those with the means could pay for an education. The U.S. has thrived since then with its publicly funded system of schools open to all. Show me a good example where a purely private nationwide education system has created a well-educated workforce?

Greybeard

August 24th, 2010
4:08 pm

I am a 26 year vet of the public school classroom and the father of seven. Six have graduated from a public Georgia high school (7th is a 11th grader). All have gone on to successful experiences at the university level. I haven’t seen a kid yet who cared and worked hard not able to get the educatio they need.

As for the stimulus money, it’s more like ropes attached than strings attached. If you could read the “improvement” plan that will be paid for by this money, you might need to find a good place to puke. It’s kind of like Obamacare. You’ll find out what’s in it and all the bureaucracy that goes with it onece it gets implemented. It’s not like the money will give us any budget relief. It’s earmarked for “reforms” or “deforms” as Herman Cain says.

Tinytam

August 24th, 2010
4:15 pm

CDog – I’ve never heard it said that way but it still sounds discriminatory. Separate but equal is the way you’d have it to some extent, right? “Education is not a right” – that’s a really scary prospect. A more educated and informed population and future workforce is what our country needs. I’m not sure you’d like the prospects of citizens who didn’t have an education. The public education system began in the 1770s. PBS featured a four part special called “School – The Story of American Public Education”. It might do you some good to check it out. It might be helpful to all of us so we’d make more informed decisions and provide for a more productive discussion about education in general.

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