Monday, July 27, 2009

Several Posts re: Obama/Duncan's Race to the Top

Thanks to Joan Seedorf for compiling this list of responses. Not all of the links work.

I found several posts on [nyceducationnews] and copied them to this 1 forward.
I don't think I saw this on Ice-mail, but if they are up already, sorry for the
I started with the earlier ones-the Draft (on Thursday), and then comments on
the plan (from Sat) and finally the Official Press Release from Obama & Duncan
announcing the contest/application for the states to get the education stimulus

From: Leonie Haimson <>
To: nyceducationnews@ yahoogroups. com
Sent: Thursday, July 23, 2009 10:21:23 PM
Subject: [nyceducationnews] Draft Race to the Top regulations would ban New York

Duncan wants to use his $4.3 billion slush fund to reward states that use test
score data in illogical, unreliable and ultimately destructive ways.

And get this: a student achievement is now defined as his or her score on the
state’s standardized tests.

But generously, they leave room for “States that need more time — for example,
to pass legislation, engage stakeholders and secure commitments, or develop
thoughtful plans,” according to the draft regulations.

And Liebman is writing the grant proposal. Talk about the blind leading the

Draft Race to the Top regulations would ban New York State

by Elizabeth Green

The Obama administration’ s proposed regulations on a $4.3 billion federal fund
for schools would block New York State from receiving any of the money,
according to a draft copy of the regulations that I obtained today.

States that block schools from using “data about student achievement” to
evaluate teachers would be banned from applying to the fund, called the Race to
the Top grant, under the proposed regulations. (The ban is written in a tricky
double-negative way, saying that only states that don’t have such a law are
eligible to apply for grants.)

The regulations define “student achievement” as “a student’s score on the
State’s standardized test,” for subjects that are tested. For subjects that
aren’t part of federally required testing regimes, states can propose an
alternative measure, including scores on quizzes known as “interim assessments.”

New York State law prohibits principals from using student test scores when
deciding whether to give a teacher tenure or not. The law was passed last year
after private lobbying by the state teachers’ union, and against loud objections
from the Bloomberg administration.

A spokesman for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Peter Cunningham, confirmed
the language in a brief phone call just now. The draft regulations will be
released publicly at midnight tonight, Cunningham said.

The Race to the Top fund is a tiny slice of the $97.5 billion federal stimulus
package for education, meant to spur innovation. Obama administration officials
have indicated they will use the fund to steer states and local school districts
towards policies federal school officials support. Duncan and members of his
administration have mentioned policies banning the use of student test scores
and caps on charter schools as likely targets.

The proposed regulations would leave a window for states such as New York to
receive the Race to the Top dollars if they revise their education laws in the
next year. The regulations outline two phases of grant-making, one accepting
applications “in late 2009″ and the other in “mid-late Spring 2010.”

The second phase is designed for “States that need more time — for example, to
pass legislation, engage stakeholders and secure commitments, or develop
thoughtful plans,” according to the draft regulations.

The draft regulations would also give preference to states that meet other
policy priorities, such as by agreeing to pursue national curriculum standards
and by not limiting the number of charter schools. But the regulations would not
bar states that do not meet those criteria from applying for Race to the Top

Before warning against applications by states with specifically policies, Duncan
singled out New York State and New York City as good candidates to apply to the
fund. He said the city’s school policies fit into the wider purpose outlined for
the fund, which is outlined in four categories: “standards and assessment,
improving teacher effectiveness and achieving equity in teacher distribution,
improving collection and use of data, and supporting struggling schools.”

A former head of the city’s accountability office, James Liebman, is now tasked
to the special project of writing an application for the grant.

From: Leonie Haimson <>
Subject: [nyceducationnews] Obama's Heavy-handed Education Plan
Date: Saturday, July 25, 2009, 10:02 PM

Diane on point as usual.

Obama's Heavy-handed Education Plan

http://www.politico .com/arena/

On Friday, the Obama administration announced the regulations for its $5 billion
slush fund, er, "Race to the Top" fund. Remember, that part of the $100 billion
stimulus money for education that Congress set aside that was absolutely
positively necessary? Well, it turns out that $95 billion is helping to save
teachers' jobs in the wake of the financial meltdown, and the remainder was left
as play money for the Department of Education. (When I worked at the Department
of Education in 1991, we had $10 million in discretionary funds, not $5

But the $5 billion (or $4 point something billion) is money that Secretary Arne
Duncan is using to push the states and the nation to adopt what he believes is
necessary to reform American education. The key ideas are these: lots more
charter schools; lots more privatization; evaluate teachers based on the test
scores of their students; open more alternate routes into teaching to break the
grip of professionalism.

Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute writes on Gadfly that this
"Race to the Top" program should be called "NCLB 2: The Carrot That Feels Like a
Stick." As a former Bush administration official, he knows what he's talking
about. He likes the Duncan plans, but can't resist shedding a tear for the death
of federalism. Now, says Petrilli, we have entered fully into the age of
"Washington Knows Best at its worst." He writes: "If you found No Child Left
Behind prescriptive, just wait till you take a look at this baby."

The problem here is obvious: What if Washington doesn't know best? What if the
"reform" ideas are wrong? Just a few weeks ago, a respected Stanford
University study reported that 80% or more of charter schools are no better than
or worse than their neighborhood public school. Why replace struggling public
schools with worse charter schools? There is a ton of evidence that evaluating
teachers based on student test scores is a lousy idea (see the work of Jesse
Rothstein at Princeton , for example).

And then there is this nagging question: If Duncan knows so much about how to
reform American education, why didn't he reform Chicago 's schools? A report
came out a couple of weeks ago from the Civic Committee of Chicago ("Still Left
Behind") saying that Chicago's much-touted score gains in the past several years
were phony, that they were generated after the state lowered the passing mark on
the state tests, that the purported gains did not show up on the federal tests,
and that Chicago 's high schools are still failing. On the respected federal
tests (NAEP), Chicago is one of the lowest performing cities in the nation.

Why is Washington pushing "reform" ideas that have so little evidence behind
them, as well as ideas that will positively harm public education in America ?

Diane Ravitch

From: Leonie Haimson <>
Subject: [nyceducationnews] The Race to the Top: The carrot that feels like a
Date: Saturday, July 25, 2009, 10:04 PM

« Race to the Top docs

http://www.edexcell flypaper/ index.php/ 2009/07/the- race-to-the-
top-the-carrot- that-feels- like-a-stick/


The Race to the Top: The carrot that feels like a stick

I’m pleased to announce this summer’s latest blockbuster , from the creators of
No Child Left Behind, it’s: "NCLB 2: The Carrot That Feels Like a Stick."

At least that’s how I suspect the proposed Race to the Top application is going
to seem to the states. If you found No Child Left Behind prescriptive, just wait
till you take a look at this baby. (It’s due out at noon on Friday.)

To be clear, the application is jam-packed with reform ideas that I find
promising, even exciting (the "whole enchilada," as I told USA Today ). Evaluate
teachers in part based on student achievement gains! Replicate excellent charter
schools and ramp up accountability for lackluster ones! Expand high-quality
alternate route programs! If even a few st ates change their policies to be in
alignment with the vision articulated here, our country will be the better for

But while the substance is worth celebrating, I can’t help but feel remorse for
the death of federalism. Granted, as a former Bush Administration official, this
is like me expressing regret that the Obama team is blowing a hole in the
federal budget. They are merely reaping what we sowed.

But the Obama Administration had a choice. It could have asked states for their
best ideas for achieving big objectives, like improving teacher quality or
turning around low-performing schools. Instead, it has published a list of 19 of
its best ideas, few of which are truly "evidence-based," regardless of what
President Obama says , and told states to adopt as many of them as possible if
they want to get the money. It’s as if a bunch of do-gooders sat together at the
NewSchools Venture Fund summit and brainstormed a list of popular reform ideas,
and are now going to force them upon the states. (Wait, I think that is how this
list got developed.)

This is Washington Knows Best at its worst, and runs the risk of seeing states
superficially swear allegiance to these reform ideas but implement them
half-heartedly down the road.

Still, I have to admit to being torn. I like the ideas embedded in=2 0the
application (and yes, I enjoy attending the NewSchools summit too!). And after
seeing what Arne Duncan has been able to accomplish on the charter school cap
front, just by dangling extra money out there, I suspect that this approach
might actually work in terms of moving the needle on state policy.

But get ready for a backlash. States don’t take kindly to Washington pushing
them around, and kicking a dog that’s down isn’t always the smartest strategy.

Arne Duncan has made some promising comments about moving federal policy to be
"tight" on results and "loose" on process. It’s impossible to see how that jibes
with the application released today. He’d better start walking that talk, lest
he lose support from the field before the even bigger No Child Left Behind
debates get underway.

Note: See coverage from the Washington Post , including a transcript of its
interview with President Obama . Also see USA Today , AP , Education Week , the
Wall Street Journal , and the New York Times .

Update : You can view the Race to the Top application for yourself here .

President Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan Announce National
Competition to Advance School Reform
Obama Administration Starts $4.35 Billion "Race to the Top" Competition, Pledges
a Total of $10 Billion for Reforms

July 24, 2009 Contact: Justin Hamilton,
Deputy Press Secretary
(202) 401-1576 or


Race to the Top

Recovery programs

Secretary's remarks

Race to the Top notice
PDF (180K)

State Stabilization notice
PDF (168K)

State Data Systems notice
PDF (40K)

President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today
announced that states leading the way on school reform will be eligible to
compete for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top competitive grants to support
education reform and innovation in classrooms. Between the 2009 budget and the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more than $10 billion in grant
money will be available to states and districts that are driving reform.

"This competition will not be based on politics, ideology, or the preferences of
a particular interest group. Instead, it will be based on a simple
principle—whether a state is ready to do what works. We will use the best data
available to determine whether a state can meet a few key benchmarks for
reform—and states that outperform the rest will be rewarded with a grant. Not
every state will win and not every school district will be happy with the
results. But America's children, America's economy, and America itself will be
better for it," President Obama said in a speech at the U.S. Department of
Education headquarters in Washington.

The centerpiece of the Obama administration's education reform efforts is the
$4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund, a national competition which will highlight
and replicate effective education reform strategies in four significant areas:

Adopting internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare
students for success in college and the workplace;
Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and
Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and
principals how they can improve their practices; and
Turning around our lowest-performing schools.
"The $4.35 billion Race to the Top program that we are unveiling today is a
challenge to states and districts. We're looking to drive reform, reward
excellence and dramatically improve our nation's schools," Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan said at the event.

In addition to the Race to the Top Fund, over the coming months the Department
plans to award more than $5.6 billion in additional grants through several other
federal programs that support the Administration's reform priorities, making
available dollars that have been allocated by Congress under the FY 2009 budget
and the ARRA. The Department of Education will be publishing draft regulations
on each of the programs in coming weeks. In releasing the documents, Secretary
Duncan is calling on state officials to intentionally prepare to use money from
all of these programs in an integrated way to advance these essential areas of

The additional programs include the $650 million Investing in Innovation Fund.
Like Race to the Top, the Investing in Innovation Fund is part of the ARRA. It
will support local efforts by school districts and partnerships with nonprofits
to start or expand research-based innovative programs that help close the
achievement gap and improve outcomes for students.

With $297 million in the Teacher Incentive Fund, states and districts will
create or expand effective performance pay and teacher advancement models to
reward teachers and principals for increases in student achievement and boost
the number of effective educators working with poor, minority, and disadvantaged
students and teaching hard-to-staff subjects.

With $315 million from the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems program, states
will expand their data systems to track students' achievement from preschool
through college and link their achievement to teachers and principals.
Applications for these funds are being posted today.

With $3.5 billion in Title I School Improvement Grants, the Department will
support states in efforts to reform struggling schools, and focus on
implementing turnaround models in the lowest-performing schools. Secretary
Duncan has set a goal of turning around the bottom 5 percent of schools in the
next five years. In addition, $919 million in State Educational Technology
Grants to help bring technology into the classroom will be made available. These
funds are distributed to states by formula but states must deliver at least half
of the money to districts on a competitive basis. States can make all of the
money competitive.

Within Race to the Top, $350 million has also been set aside to help fund common
assessments for states that adopt common international standards. Draft
guidelines and criteria for the Race to the Top competition as well as the
second round of grants from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund are being
published today.

An application for the state data system grants also is being published today.
In the coming weeks, the Department will release guidance on the Investing in
Innovation Fund, the Teacher Incentive Fund, the Title I School Improvement
Grants, and the State Educational Technology Grants.

The Department will finalize the regulations and start accepting applications
for the Race to the Top competition this fall. The first round of grants will go
out early next year. The second round of applications will likely be due in June
2010 and final awards will be made in September.

"States will have two chances to win," Duncan said. "They have plenty of time to
learn from the first-round winners, change laws where necessary, build
partnerships with all key stakeholders, and advance bold and creative reforms."



Back to July 2009

1 comment:

Medianewstime said...

54% is high and no matter how you crunch the numbers - which Im sure you haven't - you would know that no matter how many people 40% gives you, in your case it's about 80 million, it's still not the majority. When the President has the majority of the people on his side his doing a pretty good job. Also you don't have to use the caps lock key people can read your comments without it.