Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tom Friedman Plugs Obama's Race to the Top Initiative

Tom Friedman with a fantastic (and well deserved) plug for Race to the Top:

ONE thing that has struck me about the debates so far is how little President Obama has conveyed about what I think are his two most innovative domestic programs. While I don’t know how Obamacare will turn out, I’m certain that my two favorite Obama initiatives will be transformative.

His Race to the Top program in education has already set off a nationwide wave of school reform...

In the Race to the Top in schools, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has built on the good works of his predecessor, Margaret Spellings, and President George W. Bush, who put in place No Child Left Behind. Though never perfect, No Child Left Behind was still a game-changer for education reform because it gave us the data to see not only how individual schools were doing but how the most at-risk students were doing within those schools. Without that, educational reform based on accountability of teachers and principals could never start.

…IT is too early to draw any firm conclusions, but Duncan points to some early positives. Some 4,500 state and local teachers’ union affiliates have signed onto their state’s reform proposals, showing they want to be partners. Roughly 25 percent of the turnaround schools, Duncan said, “have already showed double-digit increases in reading or math in their first year and about two-thirds showed gains.” There have also been “huge reductions of discipline incidents.”

Although, over the two years of the program, 46 states submitted reform blueprints — and only the 12 best won grants from $70 million to $700 million, depending on the size of their student populations — even states that did not win have been implementing their proposals anyway. And because 45 states and the District of Columbia adopted similar higher academic standards (known as the “common core”) for reading and math, “for the first time in our history a kid in Massachusetts and a kid in Mississippi are now being measured by the same yardstick,” said Duncan.

In many cases, we have seen as much reform from those “who did not get a nickel as those who got $100 million,” Duncan added.

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