Dept. of Ed's 'Race to the Bottom?'
August 27, 2009 - 3:17pm ET
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The Obama administration realizes that our education system is lagging, but the recently announced ‘Race to the Top’ initiative may not be the solution. The Department of Education’s ‘Race to the Top’ puts up for grabs almost $5 billion of federal dollars to states that devise innovations and demonstrate improvements in K-12 education. This program is a good start in theory, but the fine print promotes broad, sweeping changes that are cause for concern.
First, to be eligible, states are required to link performance with testing. This is similar to the failed No Child Left Behind policy that focused too much on student assessment, and too little on broader factors and gains, when gauging school quality. For those who forgot, NCLB showed little gains in student progress, with schools forced to teach to the test and tests emphasizing low level skills.
The President of the National Education Association, Dennis Van Roekel voiced added concerns that, “A 'Race to the Top' can quickly turn into a 'Race to Judgment.' We need to offer incentives so that our best teachers teach the students most in need of assistance, not incentives to teach students most likely to score highest on a standardized test.”
The other main provision requires states to lift caps on charter schools –this is equally troubling. Charter schools have not shown to improve the quality of education, nor do they prove competitive to the public alternative. In fact, the Department of Education found that public school children have higher reading and math scores compared to charters’.
The ‘Race to the Top’ hopefully will not become a ‘race to the bottom.’ Yet it is hard to believe that real change will come if failed, recycled ideas to reform are continued. For sure, federal investment that reward innovation should be applauded and expanded, however policies of the former administration should not be. True reform allows program flexibility for our public schools, while improving teacher skills, emphasizing advanced level curriculum, and building school-family-community partnerships.
Just to showcase how far behind America is, take a look at the following statistics; According to OECD, the U.S. ranks 18th in secondary education completion. Consider top performance and quality, we rank well below average in math and far behind the rest in science.
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Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future