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  • I’m from Washington, and I’m Here to Disappoint You

    The Department of Education today released the names of the 16 finalists in the competition for federal Race to the Top (RttT) grants. The finalists include the District of Columbia and 15 states: Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee. In all, 40 states had applied for the grants. In March, state leaders will come to Washington to deliver presentations on why their states merit a slice of the $4.35 billion in grants. Winners will be announced in April.

    The more than $4 billion RttT initiative is the largest discretionary fund an education secretary has ever had the opportunity to work with. As part of the overall $100 billion allocated to the Department of Education as part of the economic “stimulus” plan passed last year, RttT was supposed to be a means of spurring states to implement the types of innovative education reforms that the administration thought would spur academic achievement. Yet, the group of states that made the first cut on the way to a grant was a numerous one – conventional wisdom was that far fewer states would make the first cut.

    In addition, the few, true reform measures that conservatives were applauding – namely charter schools – already appear to be on the chopping block. Andy Smarick over at Fordham writes today in a blog post entitled Major Disappointment:

    The US Department of Education had the opportunity today to send a clear signal–that the Race to the Top is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that very good wouldn’t be good enough, that only the biggest and boldest plans would merit consideration. Instead, the administration accepted 15 states and Washington, DC–nearly 1/3 of all applicants–as finalists.

    The list includes Kentucky, a state with no charter law and New York, which brashly rejected reform legislation–including a critical cap lift provision–in advance of the deadline. It includes Colorado, which backed off of important reforms related to teachers, and Ohio, whose proposal was weak in a number of areas… I was preparing to heap praise on the administration for doing as they had suggested–only shining a spotlight on the very best of the best. I expected a finalist list of 5 and was quietly hoping for 3. My worst-case scenario was 12. I never would have imagined 16.

    Amanda Farris over at the Republican Policy Committee echoes that sentiment, writing:

    Secretary Duncan has repeatedly said that in order to qualify for Race to the Top funding states will need to meet “a very, very high bar.” It is therefore surprising that despite the fact that “ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charters and other innovative schools” was a selection criteria, New York and Kentucky were chosen as finalists. As you may recall, earlier this year New York refused to pass an education reform bill that would have expanded their charter school caps, and Kentucky does not even have a charter school law.

    “Is this an indication that Secretary Duncan is not really all that serious about expanding quality charter schools and rewarding only the most reform-minded states? This lengthy list of finalists does not inspire much confidence.”

    And, over at Edspresso, the feeling is mutual:

    “Arne Duncan got an earful from reporters today. They asked about scoring and why some states emerged as finalists when they did little to improve various parts of their reform portfolio…

    ‘We said from day one,’ said Duncan, ‘that there were many, many factors’ that would go into the scoring. Many different things would be considered, he said. ‘Charters were never going to be the determining factor from the very beginning.’

    Why else would only three of the sixteen have charter laws among the top ten in the country? Indeed, Kentucky has none and seven others have laws that are barely passing…And now that it’s clear that a strong charter law or performance pay system doesn’t seem to matter for the competition, state policymakers can breath a sigh of relief that they don’t have to do any heavy lifting to get or stay in the game, just hire a smart team of consultants to create convincing charts and use flowery language…

    So, do you fans of increased federal involvement in education still think it can make a difference to improving education for our children?

    Which hits at the central question. Fifty years of ever-expanding federal involvement in education without a commensurate increase in academic achievement should have given people pause enough to think that Washington – this time – will be a successful arbiter of innovation. The qualifying states lead one to believe that RttT is full of more rhetoric than reform, despite what the administration would have us believe.

    This brings to mind what have been continuously referred to as “voluntary” common stardards. The recent revelation that the administration is considering tying the eligibility for Title I funds to their adoption would make them anything but voluntary.

    This is all a good lesson in why those states still willing to feed at the federal trough should at least curb their expectations for results. Even when Washington promises.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to I’m from Washington, and I’m Here to Disappoint You

    1. The Elephant's says:

      I can think of many reforms needed by our public schools and our education system. More funding is not the problem. We have tried giving the schools more money over and over and over. Never works. But the traditional Democrat approach to a problem is that if the solution didn't work, they just didn't appropriate enough funds.

      How do the grants measure up when viewed through a political filter? Are they going to states that need a little push to be more reliably Democrat?

    2. Leon, Durango, CO says:

      I think the whole Federal Department Of Education is an Unconstitutional abomination, and just like predicted, Federal tinkering with education has brought us political propaganda into public education. It was unlawful to impose national PC standards and crazy Green dogma. To get federal money you have to tow the line on wacky new indoctrination. "Teach it our way" and the kids get dumber and dumber, and it is socialization really, not education.

      Democrats will get more help than Republicans, Liberal causes will get all the money, and great big payoffs just before the elections. "We're going to buy your vote with your own money!" The Race To The Bottom losers are The People.

    3. Spiritof76, NH says:

      To believe that government cares about education is like believing in tooth fairy. What has the government done successfully? Anything?

      Politicians need more morons, not really educated people-don't mean indoctrination. To them, race to the top means giving the trophy to a school that finished last. Ins't that elevating the self esteem, according to the socialist manifesto?

    4. Hunter Campbell says:

      So true, DC schools spend nearly $20,000 pp while Catholic schools spend less than half of that. Who gets a better education? All of our extra money goes to administration, and BS PC programs.

      There's a state that's revising it's high school history program and cutting out American history from the pilgrims to 1877! No more founding fathers for you, kiddies!

    5. Drew Page, IL says:

      I understand that education, at least through high school years, is a right. But it is also a privelege. There are some students occupying time and space in our public schools who don't give a damn about learning. Those who aren't interested make it known by their inddiference. They don't pay attention in class, don't do assignments or homework and get pushed through the system, because they aren't allowed to flunk.

      There are kids who can't read at a sixth grade level are being "graduated" into high schools, where they fall even further behind. Still, they are pushed through the system and "graduated" again. Colleges drop their standards to accomodate the kids and many of them are "graduated" again, despite their inability.

      Schools drop standards, and push teachers to do the same. The government demands accountability from schools. The schools pass that buck down to their teachers, telling them they are "accountable" for making sure that test scores improve. Teachers must somehow "find a way" to motivate and reach those who couldn't care less.

      Colleges should reinstate and raise standards for admission and passing grades. High schools need to implement remedial reading and math classes for

      students who perform below grade level in these areas and hold back students until they meet the minimum standards for their grade level. Primary K-8 schools need to hold back kids who fail to meet minimum reading and math standards until they attain them. Disruptive, agressive or violent students need to be placed in alternative settings.

      Until these things happen, it won't matter how much money you spend on 'education'.

    6. Sam, WI says:

      I strongly suspect that they only included 3 states out of the top ten (in regards to charter school laws) to hide their actual criteria for how a state was to qualify. Specifically, it seems that they chose states based on which one had a education system as close to what they (liberals) want, not what works.

    7. Jeanne Stotler,Woodb says:

      When I was in school I went to a church run school, then my children went to the same school, I read the paper every day and when I saw the budget put forth for our school K-8, vs the public school, I asked my husband, WHY does it cost the local gov't more to run an elem school than our church nrun school?? Now after yrs of raising children and grandsons I know, there is so much WASTE, we do not need to change text books every year, if a child partakes in extra curicular activities, pay a fee, maybe go back to renting text books, there are ways without cutting programs and teachers pay, start with the school board and it's perks, especially travel allowances, if they pay for their own, they can use them as TAX deductions, no state, or community cars either, teachers have to get to school on their own, why not members of the school boards. During WWII everything was rationed, yet we survived, teach children they CAN WALK a mile and it won't kill them, they do not need extra treats at lunch from school, if necc. pack their lunches. My school did not have a cafeteria, we ate in our class rooms if weather was bad or outside when it was good. Wake up American parents STOP indulging your kids, you are making them WEAK.

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