Race to the Top, a very brief overview

17 Sep

…yawn. If you’re like me, then you probably find this the most uninteresting hot topic on the ed scene right now. Nevertheless, NY became $700 million richer this summer, here’s a tiny bit on how and why

Race to the Top, what is it?

Technically, it’s an economic recovery initiative as well as an ed reform initiative. It was passed under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. Race to the Top (RTTT) provided for $4.35 billion in federal grants to states meeting the federal education department’s criteria for ed reform. Competing state’s grant proposals were judged on a 485-point rubric. Grants were judged and received in two phases. The executive summary of the competition can be found here.

The Four Magic Goals:

  1. Adopt standards and assessments for student success in college and the global workforce.
  2. Build data systems to measure student success.
  3. Recruit, train, and retain effective teachers and principals.
  4. Turn around their lowest-performing schools.

The Priorities (and non-priorities)

Capacity and potential to the the magic goals were the bulk of the selection process, but states could earn 15 extra points on the rubric if they also demonstrated a “high quality” plan to further Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. A few more “invitational” priorities were listed, but were not indicated to impact each state’s rubric score. Among the invitational priorities were improving early learning (pre-school/kindergarten), and the expansion of data systems to include assessments for special ed, ELL, and at-risk students.

$700 Million for education, pretty awesome… right?

This award should mean some big changes in testing, student data, and teacher recruitment, training, evaluation, and termination procedures. Neither the RTTT Executive Summary nor the NYS RTTT application addressed the prospect of asking teachers and principals what is hindering student success at their schools. And sadly, under RTTT, students with special needs are only an afterthought.

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