Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Race to the Top: A sprint when we need a marathon

Matt Miller with a fair point that RTTT will not, by itself, meaningfully change the outcomes by 2016.  However, RTTT represents a powerful paradigm shift and if Congress funds RTTT and makes it an ANNUAL competition, I'm confident that it will, in fact, be a major contributor to very different educational opportunities for millions of children.  Not to be a broken record, but I get really annoyed when people criticize steps (even leaps) in the right direction like RTTT, high-performing charter schools, TFA, shutting down crappy schools, extending the school day, making it easier to reward good teachers and fire lousy ones, etc. by saying, "Well, this isn't revolutionizing public education."  THERE IS NO 100% SOLUTION!  We need 100 1% solutions.  It's the CUMULATIVE effect of doing LOTS of these things that really brings about improvement over time.

But any honest assessment of the bigger picture is more depressing. That's because the real race we're in is not a "race to the top" within the United States but a race to maintain middle-class living standards in a world where rising, hungry powers such as China and India now threaten them. It's a race against other advanced nations whose school systems routinely outperform ours.

Seen in this light, the outer limits of the Obama administration's ambitions are demonstrably unequal to the challenges we face. A one-time $4.5 billion incentive fund in a system that spends $600 billion a year simply can't produce fundamental change…

…I'd be thrilled to be proved wrong on these predictions. But suppose, on the trajectory that's been set on education policy, that I'm right? What should we make of this paradox? The most innovative national education leadership we've had in decades -- yet leadership unequal to the magnitude of the challenge.


Race to the Top: A sprint when we need a marathon

By Matt Miller
Thursday, June 3, 2010

Test your understanding of school reform. The Obama administration's Race to the Top competition, which received dozens of fresh state applications by its deadline Tuesday night, is:

(A) The most innovative federal education initiative we've seen in decades, a measure that has dramatically accelerated the school improvement agenda in many states even before it has doled out a dollar.

(B) A measure that is utterly unequal to the educational challenge America now faces.

(C) Both of the above.

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