Tuesday, January 26, 2010

(how can technology assist) EDUCATIONAL REFORM a la Race to the Top Initiative

Race to the Top (a federal educational initiative)

details of the Race to the Top program from Ed.gov (US Depeartment of Education):
Program Office: Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE)
CFDA Number: 84.395
Program Type: Discretionary/Competitive Grants

Through Race to the Top, we are asking States to advance reforms around four specific areas:

Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.
Awards in Race to the Top will go to States that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform. Race to the Top winners will help trail-blaze effective reforms and provide examples for States and local school districts throughout the country to follow as they too are hard at work on reforms that can transform our schools for decades to come.

President Obama discusses Race to the Top:

Here’s the list of states that submitted applications to compete in Phase 1 of Race to the Top:

New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia

Please post your comments about how you read the reform goals of Race to the Top and also comment on ways that you can imagine existing or future (go ahead and dream) technologies taking education where it hasn't been and where it could go, pointing out possible benefits to arriving at these locations.


  1. I dont really think these specific guidelines are all that specific. I also heard there is a lot of debate on this in the Michigan Congress, and a lot of republicans oppose the initiative.

  2. I know that Obama is worried that Dan Quayle thinks he's a commie, and maybe his advisors thought that naming an education initiative "Race to the Top" would be a good way to show his support for all competition all the time. The dotedsite says that one of the goals of the program is "Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy" but downplays that students and teachers have to compete to get the skills to compete in the global economy. Here's a way lefty article about this program: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/jul2009/educ-j25.shtml
    I'm sure that there are 189391237218 more.
    Anyone can learn anything on the internet, but they have to know how to read first.

  3. however, something like this is badly needed for our nation's schools. i think that making it somewhat of a competition kind of incentivizes the states more to implement policies that are actually effective, instead of policies that they never expect to follow through on just to obtain the money. some of the suggestions i read about could be actually effective - for example - changing the drop out rate to 18. it is hard to say. i agree that michigan is one of the state's that probably needs the money the most.

  4. I like how open-ended the plan is, how it's designed to build on itself. I also like that the program is going to be applied at the level of local districts and independent schools, where innovations have already been developed and tested.

  5. The idea of the program is that it is evaluating the performance of teachers as opposed to students. But the evaluation of one is based on how others perform-- it is just extending the idea of standardized testing to the teaching force & we already know standardized testing gets mad screwy with the chitlins.

    ANYWAY the application requires that "effective" teachers are equally distributed. and 95% of them already qualify as "effective."

    in 2006 there was a motion to make "highly qualified" teachers equally distributed and nothing has changed. (except the wording on a new legislation)

    I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS IS EVEN DOING. And what incentives are there REALLY for a teacher that is part of the 95% to "redistribute" themselves from the suburban school to the inner-city school?

  6. At first glance, "Race to the Top" sounds about as user friendly as "No Child Left Behind." However, it's nice to see that this plan isn't (from what I've gathered) as focused on standardized testing. It isn't clear, though, how this funding could be disbursed among school districts that are in dire need of funding, as opposed to districts which already possess funding and may be furthered by this initiative. Increasing competition in well-to-do districts could work as a way to boost teachers' curriculum, though I'm not sure where this leaves those who cannot keep up with the already bolstered districts who have an "edge." The FAQ for the initiative on the website makes these distinctions even less clear:

    "Because Race to the Top is a competition, the Department cannot speculate on how peer reviewers will view specific proposals provided in response to selection criteria. States are urged to put forward their strongest plans and policies, and reviewers will evaluate them against the criteria."

    Leaving these distinctions up to the states could certainly prove to be a slippery slope--will the funding simply end up being more money for those who are ahead, and will this initiative cause students who are incapable of competing with this to be "left behind" again? The FAQ also denies that it will not "advocate evaluating, paying, or dismissing teachers or principals on the basis of test scores alone" or "advocate evaluating, paying, or dismissing teachers or principals on the basis of student achievement (rather than student growth), which could discourage them from teaching disadvantaged students"--it claims that this "would run counter to the Secretary’s goal of encouraging highly effective teachers and principals to teach and lead in high-poverty and high-minority schools." If this is the case, I would say this is an idea that could work in a way that would be good for districts who need better teachers, better facilities, and better methods of education.

  7. it says it isn't based on standardized testing. but if it is centralized, it is is based on standardized testing.

  8. (In regards to last sentence of post---I'm pretty skeptical as to whether or not this will end up being the case)

  9. One of the comments made by the NEA in response to the program was this;"We should not continue the unhealthy focus on standardized tests as the primary evidence of student success". This program certainly would mean more, and maybe even more extensive, student testing.

  10. I wanted to see why states that aren't participating in the study decided to stay out of it.

    Texas claims that, while they could use the money, they don't want to deal with all of the federal strings attached to the money. The program "smacks of a federal takeover of our public schools" according to Governor Rick Perry. He claims that Texas is doing just fine under state control, and that he doesn't want to homogenize the educational facilities across the state. Same guy declined $555 Million for the State's unemployment fund.

    read about it here http://content.usatoday.net/dist/custom/gci/InsidePage.aspx?cId=tennessean&sParam=37271018.story

    still can't find anything about why Alaska is declining to participate.

  11. remember back in the sixties when they wanted to bus kids from pontiac to grosse point and kids from grosse pointe to pontiac?

    i watched a video about it, once, where they asked a rich, white boy from grosse pointe what he thought about the prospective shakeup. as far as he was concerned, his parents had worked to move into a nice neighborhood so they could send their kids to nice schools, and besides, he didn't want to go to school with criminals or poor people. insightful comment one.

    when they decided to continue the poll by asking this girl what she would if the bussing went into effect, she looked straight into the camera, crossed her arms, and said, I. JUST. WOULDN'T. GET. ON. THE. BUS.

    so, yeah, they were snobby kids from a wealthy suburban surrounded on all sides by detroit, but that's not what particularly bothers me.

    academic performance has much to do with school settings, but there's only so much that can be done to compensate for other environments students exist in. ignoring the intersectionality of race, gender, and SES, among others, with the educational experience is hugely shortsighted.

    as such, "the potential effectiveness of NCLB has been seriously undermined ... by its acceptance that bad schools are the reason for low achievement, and that an academic program revolving around standards, testing, teacher training, and accountability can, in and of itself, offset the full impact of low socioeconomic status on achievement."

    No Child Left Behind may have meant well, but feels somehow purposely ignorant of the omnipotent social mechanisms that are wreaking havoc on the lagging districts. i want schools to do better for their students, but can we please acknowledge that there are other things that need to be dealt with if we want to get closer to equality in education?

    even though they didn't actually end up bussing the kids around (due to hysterically outraged and panicked response from parents), it might have done some good for the pontiac students. a 2006 study decided to test the effects of such a switcheroo. shocking result? the low SES, racial minority student surpassed all expectations and flourished when placed in a Grosse Pointe type school, complete with small class sizes and students from "good neighborhoods." in contrast, the high SES white student crashed and burned in a sort of flailing about in an environment where he was not only in the minority, but in the company of low SES, racial minority peers.


  12. Thread from the NEA website called "Race to the top = the demise of teaching:" https://public-groups.nea.org/discussion/topic/show/260664
    Teachers stress about the amount of pressure they would be under for aspects that are not entirely under their control. They also rage against imposing competition on a traditionally noncompetitive profession. Makes a lot of dramatic claims, and makes the issue a lot more personal.
    "There is a severe disconnect that exists right now between the classroom and those in charge. I love this job, however, I will not compete against my colleagues for more money-that's a different career, requires a different personality, and promotes a different human trait. None of these characteristics have the slightest rationale for being anywhere near a child."