No Surprises Here: Race to the Top Isn’t Making the Grade

Yesterday in The Washington Post, education reporter, Valerie Strauss,  wrote a news report related to the latest findings of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, a project of the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute. I have been a member of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education coalition since its inception, and because I admire many of the founders including individuals like Linda Darling-Hammond, I follow their work closely.

The title of Strauss' article in the Post is “Report:  Race to the Top Isn't Delivering Big Results,” and it is based on the report written by Elaine Weiss, the national coordinator for the Broader Bolder Approach to Education. Weiss' report is  entitled “Mismatches in Race to the Top Limit Educational Improvement.” That report explores how states that won early rounds of the Race to the Top competition, forced upon states by the Department of Education during times of particular economic duress (2009), has fared in the first three years of their four-year grants.

Not surprisingly, according to an article from yesterday's Politico entitled “‘Race to the Top' for Education a Flop, Report Finds,” the Department of Education has rejected the report's findings, saying that it is too early to draw such sweeping conclusions. Likewise, those individuals who support the President's education reform agenda attacked the report. According to the Politico article, Charles Barone of Democrats for Education Reform offered harsh criticism saying that “to call this junk science is an insult to junk.” Note, however, that Mr. Barone was a lead negotiator for the Democrats on the drafting and passing of No Child Left Behind in 2002, an example of his being out of touch even then with real schools, real children, and the task facing real teachers every day then and now.

I am not going to offer much commentary on the report at this time becauseI haven't had a chance to read it in its entirety. But I wanted to offer my readers an opportunity to peruse it on their own, in their own time and perhaps draw their own conclusions. I wish I thought that it would spawn a legitimate and meaningful debate about the merits and demerits of Race to the Top. Alas, I am feeling at the moment that meaningful debate on any topic in this day and age is a pipe dream of those of us who remember the “good old days” when facts were facts and not personal opinions and people debated issues rather than personalities and we were a whole lot more civil with one another when we disagreed about things like policy and politics. We have become a society of pretty mean spirited commentators with no one listening to anyone else it seems to me. Perhaps it is the downside of the plethora of technology that we have available to us. Everyone with a computer (including yours truly) has a forum and we are spouting off with opinions that no one really values unless it already comports with their own.

As for me, I wasn't thrilled with Race to the Top in the beginning, so it doesn't surprise me if it isn't making the grade. I just wish that if that were the case we might actually have a shot at having a meaningful conversation about it. I wish.