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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More on Race to the Top

President Barack Obama has stated that the selection of states to participate in the $4.35 billion Race to the Top school improvement program will be based on "whether a state is ready to do what works." He continues, "States that outperform the rest will be rewarded with a grant." Between 10 and 15 states will be selected in April 2010 to receive federal RTTT grants.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan chimed in by saying, "Race to the Top is the equivalent of education reform's moon shot."

One must keep in mind the several “strings attached” to receiving this money:

• Creating data systems that includes linking student progress to individual teachers

• Improving bad schools

• Creating tougher academic standards

• Boosting teacher quality

States also need to be receptive to charter schools and alternative teacher pay (i.e. “performance pay”). An emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) also will receive more consideration.

However, many of the “new school” acronym programs haven’t always improved student achievement.

Some of the best educators will tell you the uncomfortable truth that some of our supposedly struggling schools are not that way solely because educators are somehow not motivated, trained, mandated, paid or worked enough.

In fact, veteran teachers may tell you that some of our students fail because they choose not to do the work and because some parents are unwilling or unable to help or make them do the work and because our culture apparently no longer instills values that are essential for success at school, such as work ethic, personal accountability, persistence, resourcefulness, innovation, and pride.

No amount of reform, schemes, new programs with catchy titles like Race to the Top, or snake oil will ever substitute for joint and honest effort among everyone (i.e. “the whole village that raises the child”).

Hopefully, scapegoating others, rejecting shared responsibility, and trumpeting questionable solutions like merit pay for teachers will not win out in today’s culture over the hard work needed for our students to gain knowledge and wisdom. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor eloquently stated, “We don't accomplish anything in this world alone... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life [or system of education] and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.”

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