Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Race to the Top

We have discussed President Obama's education initiative called "The Race to the Top" before. "The Race" is "a competition that is parceling out $4.35 billion in new education funding to states that are committed to real reform." States must submit proposals for the competition by mid-January. I stumbled upon this recent opinion column in the Wall Street Journal online by Harold E. Ford Jr., Louis V. Gerstner Jr., and Eli Broad. Please click the link to read the whole column, however I will pull out a few key paragraphs that caught my eye and made me wonder how Georgia and DeKalb schools will fare in this competition.

...President Barack Obama has launched "Race to the Top," a competition that is parceling out $4.35 billion in new education funding to states that are committed to real reform. This program offers us an opportunity to finally move the ball forward.

To that end Mr. Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are pushing states toward meaningful change. Mr. Duncan has even stumped for reform alongside former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Yet the administration must continue to hang tough on two critical issues: performance standards and competition. ...

Race to the Top funds will not serve their purpose if they are awarded based on good intentions and promises. Instead, the administration is right to look at results. Has a state embraced rigorous standards? Has it welcomed charter schools? Has it turned around low-performing schools and held teachers accountable? ...

If the administration were to simply spread the funds around, Race to the Top would end up supporting incremental, not transformational, change. The time is right for bold, comprehensive reform—even if only in a handful of states. This is why it is important to consider a state's record. Is the governor a true change agent, someone who is willing to withstand pressure in order to implement difficult reforms? If so, it may be right to award funding to his state. ...

For decades, adult interests have been at the forefront of public education. Reform has been derailed by adults who wanted to protect the status quo and enjoy lifelong benefits. This time the focus will be on learning in the classroom. What's important is that the administration is demanding that every child receive an education that prepares him or her for college or for work. Without that we will continue to be sidetracked by insignificant issues.


For more enlightenment on the "Race to the Top" and the history of educational reforms, please watch this PBS "News Hour" report from Jim Lehrer.


Anonymous said...

"held teachers accountable?"

FYI teachers..this is the package that wants to tie your pay to student test scores.

So, teachers, get rid of those esol and special ed certificates...get that gifted endorsement!
Transfer out of that low income school.

We all know who does the best on state mandated bubble in tests!

PS..skip the "all children can learn" responses...we (good teachers)know that and prove that every day.
But the research on test scores is clear...the children of educated, middle class or higher families (especially the ones sitting in gifted classes)make the highest standardized scores!
So,if I am going to get paid for student test scores, I want my gifted classes on my pay scale!

Parents of special needs, esol, LD students....Poor families....I am sorry, your kids are great, we know they show great gains and are a joy to work with, but over all, the gifted, and wealthy kids do better on these tests. So, sorry about that.

Before anyone loses their nut, this was a bit of hasty satire. Sort of a poor version of J. Swift. But surely the less defensive among you get my point!

Don't be so sure this race to the top is a good idea or a fair idea!
Involve yourself in the implementation or the fallout may not be what you are hoping for.
Lets lead the charge to stop blaming (or crediting) teachers for things out of their control.

Thank you for your consideration.

Cerebration said...

I see your point Anon - and raise you one more blog post -- I think you'll enjoy this one, in case you've not visited there before --


People - this is what we get when we allow our school districts to act as lemmings. Did you know that states have the power to say "thanks but no thanks" to NCLB funding? Some say that implementing NCLB actually costs more than states are reimbursed from the feds.

Obama has big plans to federalize our schools - I'm on the fence -- the rhetoric "sounds" good - but the implementation could end up like Communist China...

Dekalbparent said...

How do we set the scale so it is fair? You can measure kids against themselves to see progress. It's more complicated and more expensive in the short run, but it pays off in the long run,

Don't get me started on measuring kids - my kids are both LD, and if one of them made progress from doing math at a second grade level to math at a fourth grade level in a year, that's major progress, even if she was in sixth grade at the time. That teacher was a GREAT teacher. Sure, the other class progressed from fifth to sixth grade level, but that's irrelevant; MY kid's teacher moved her two grade levels.

In fact, this is the only fair measure - where was this kid when school started and where is she now? Did he have no English language skills in September and can contribute to class discussions and kid around with his classmates in May?

For the love of Pete, don't make it so the teachers who can make a difference between a self-supporting adult and an adult who lives on the margin.

Off the soapbox.

Cerebration said...

I'm personally pretty tired of the comparisons between the US and other "high performing" countries. Tell me what country takes on the task of educating absolutely everyone? India for example, is always held as an example of high test scores, yet as the movie "Slum Dog Millionaire" showed the world, India does very little to take care of a large number of children, even allowing them to live in squalor and at-risk. China - the place where you most definitely abort a fetus with Down Syndrome, also allows millions to live in abject poverty in rural areas. And other countries, such as Finland, etc, pretty much are comprised of homogenous populations who all speak the same language.

I say - Hooray for the USA! So what if we don't test at the top of the world? We do our best to LIVE with a value system bestowed upon us to attempt to be fair, righteous and respectful to our citizens and to treasure the gifts they bring to the table as individuals. What truly concerns me is that we have somehow come to believe that teaching to the test is more important than teaching American History and American values - such as they are - and such as they have evolved - horrible warts and all.

Anonymous said...

"I'm personally pretty tired of the comparisons between the US and other "high performing" countries."

Cere, I love ya, and love the blog, but have to majorly disagree with you on this.

It's a global economy now more than ever. I have many friends in high level corporate jobs, and they tell me time and time again that US students are so far behind in math and science, that they have to recruit out of the country for engineering and software jobs.

Yes, we do have the best top 20-30 universities in the world. But overall, we are not properly educating across the board in math and science.

And language is an issue too. other countries do a much better job with foreign language. Students in China, India, etc. know one or two other languages fluently, and it really puts them ahead in the workforce.

The Scandinavian countries, Finland, Norwar, Sweden, do an incredible job of educating all of their students across the board.

The big difference here in the USA is not spending, because our per capita student spending is high. It's all the levels of bureuacracy here, federal, state and local, that take away classroom spending.

Like it or not, there is a competitive aspect to education, and the U.S. is behind where we were 20-30 years ago, and it's not getting any better.

Anonymous said...

As long as we test each student at the start of every year and the end so we can measure the progress they make under a specific teacher and don't hold teachers responsible for the scores of students who miss over 10 days of school or who are chronic discipline problems in every class, paying teachers for student achievement is fair. I regularly take students who are really grades behind in reading and make at least a year of progress with them. However, if you hold me responsible for producing years of progress with some middle schooler who came to me who can't read or write a sentence-that's a different story. I can still raise their level (and do) but catching up someone who is more than two years behind is hard. I realize life isn't fair but I have a hard time helping anyone who misses school chronically. You have to be there to learn. ESOL and special ed students are fine, often at least they want to be in school.

Anonymous said...

How can I be held accountable for my students when the curriculum that I am mandated to teach is poorly done? Unless, I have say in what I teach, the way that I teach it, and am not teaching to a stupid state test, than I don't want to be held accountable for my job. Let the administrators making the decisions on how and what I teach be held accountable for the students learning.

Anonymous said...

If I, as a teacher, was held any more accountable for the ills of public education, I'd be expected to take the children home with me and raise them. That's pretty much the only thing I'm not doing already!

Anonymous said...

I would like to hold DCSS teachers accountable for their grammar, spelling, and punctuation when they post on any website and identify themselves as my colleagues. Can we do that? Let's link our pay to our ability to correctly use a comma. I'm beginning to understand why most of my students arrive in my classroom with no idea how to use one either.

Anonymous said...

Oh,,,,,aren't, you, petty, when, there, are, so, many, other, serious, matters, to, discuss!

Cerebration said...

Reminder: This is a blog, not school, please check RULE #1 on the home page... Thanks!

Cerebration said...

Interesting new story from 60 minutes --

Geoffrey Canada explains what he's trying to achieve with his educational project in New York City. CNN's Anderson Cooper reports, Sunday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

In our first story you will see an academic success story from the inner city that has gotten the attention of the Obama White House for a program that could one day help solve the education problems in America's cities. Geoffrey Canada first appeared on 60 Minutes a few years ago to talk about his Promise Academy charter school in New York City. Academics, nutrition, health and safety are all part of what Canada offers in his "Harlem Children's Zone" -- a neighborhood where he recreates the advantages these mostly black kids never had before that their white peers elsewhere enjoy. Four years later, says Harvard's Dr. Roland Fryer, Canada's program has brought his elementary school students' scores up to par with those of whites. "He closed the achievement gap in both subjects, math and reading," Fryer tells CNN's Anderson Cooper. "These are kids that a lot of people had given up on and he showed that it's never too late."
Watch an excerpt.

Anonymous said...


I’m a teacher in Georgia and I came across your site in my search for more information on “Race to the Top.” I’m curious if the State of Georgia is pursuing these funds or if any County’s are. I want to share with ou the story from the Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour.

I’m a career changer with many years in the outside world. It didn’t take me long to see the flaws in the education system once I entered it three years ago. The report shares that the Fed’s are aware that NCLB is forcing school administrations to lower their standards so they can meet the goals for AYP and NCLB. They even use the phrase “Race to the Bottom”, Which I thought I coined a couple years ago.

So this being said, how can they come up with a Program that only rewards the “winning” States and allows the remainder States to continue to flounder under the misguided pressures of NCLB? You have already stated that the only step for me is to bring the students home and raise them myself.

I am really tired of all the finger pointing at the teachers when they are being buried under requirements that don’t provide support or realistic expectations. And these same requirements really miss the true essence of education.

In conclusion the best new program that be administered is to make sure that all children can read, write and understand math at an appropriate age level. These basic fundamental skills are getting completely lost and this is the only real reason why the young adults coming out of high school are not achieving.

Enjoy the video


Cerebration said...

Thank you for that important input Anon Teacher. I'm going to embed the report in our posting. So glad you've joined our discussion.

Anonymous said...


National PTA targets Georgia in standards push
Idea is for each state to have the same academic barometersBy Kristina Torres
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Monday, December 7, 2009

Georgia is one of four states being targeted by the National PTA as it begins a campaign to build support among parents for common national academic standards.

The effort, funded in part by a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will also target Florida, New Jersey and North Carolina as it gets under way in January. According to the organization’s announcement, the campaign will expand to other states by the middle of next year.

The campaign, announced last week, comes as work to create common standards is already under way. Georgia is among 48 states that have signed on to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which seeks to develop common national standards in English, language arts and mathematics for grades k-12. Drafts of those standards are expected to be made public sometime next year.

Currently, each state has its own set of academic standards that can vary widely in how success for students is measured. While states will not be required to adopt the new common standards — participation is voluntary — the effort to write them is being led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. It also has the backing of several influential groups, including the College Board, the National School Boards Association, the National Education Association and the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

A common set of standards would allow states to make apple-to-apple comparisons among schools as well as ease the transition for families if they move from one state to another.

“We’re supportive of it,” state Education Department spokesman Matt Cardoza said. “It’s a state-led effort.”

Gov. Sonny Perdue is a national co-chairman for the initiative on behalf of the governors association.

Anonymous said...

Hi This Anon Teacher again.

I am all for the standards to be the same for all states. I was surprised when I learned that states weren't uniform. If we have to continue with NCLB this is an important step. Of course you know I am not for the continuation of NCLB.

I just took the following surveys in support of Georgias bid for funding through Race to the Top. I am providing the following excerpt from an e-mail being circulated.

If you go to the survey questions you’ll notice that it all seems to be focused on the quality of teachers. As I said before this is a misguided approach and does not go to the core of the problem in our education system.

e-mail from the Governor’s office:
The Governor's Office of Student Achievement is working really hard to get stakeholder feedback and ensure Georgia will be awarded this funding in the spring. Thanks for your help and support!

To access the Georgia Teacher Survey, please click on the following link: http://vovici.com/wsb.dll/s/336fg41840

To access the Georgia Stakeholder (business, parents, non-profits, etc) Survey, please click on the following link: http://vovici.com/wsb.dll/s/336fg41841

To learn more about the Race to the Top federal grant, please click on the following link: http://www.gaosa.org/highlights.aspx

Dekalbparent said...

Took the survey and I urge all of you to do the same. We parents / yaxpayers / community members need to voice our opinions.

Anonymous said...

I agree and urge everyone to give their opinions.

Education is about to change and I am not sure if it is a good change.

Anonymous said...

Race to the Top. I like it!

I can just see Crawford's mouth watering right now.

Sure he is thinking what new stuff he and his BFFs (Best Friends for Fraud)can hustle up with this new money.

Maybe now that th stakes effect the state, maybe now the state will get off its butt and do something about the corruption in DCSS.

It they want a piece of the education pie they have to get it together.

The US DEPT OF ED is overseeing these funds to each state.
With all the OCR investigations for retaliation and discrimination that DCSS has going on I hope they do not get a dime!

Heck...as long as we have Crawford Lewis in charge any money given will be miss used.

The students sure as heck wont benefit from it.

I wrote a letter of complaint to SACS about the Kaiser Grant and I also wrote a letter to Kaiser.

The money was not used in the best manner to benefit the students and staff majority.

Oh "Crooked Crawford" pulled a "SLICK RICK" on them with those funds.

Why does the administration office need to be moved?

Was this decision made before or after they got the grant?

Dekalbparent said...

The decision to move the administrative offices to Mtn Industrial predates the grant. (I don't know if they had the grant in mind, though).

Cerebration said...

I don't think a $200,000 grant had anything to do with moving the AB offices. They simply wanted nice, new offices and that facility is absolutely enormous. It holds all kinds of offices, programs and schools. I think that when the grant presented itself - the little light bulb went off - that one that only seems to illuminate themselves.

Justice In DeKalb said...

Interesting....this "Race to the Top" can definitely be a positive step forward - initiated by Bill Gates. However, I feel somewhat ambivalent as to it applying to DCSS due to the obvious fact of the current administration team and the already financial unaccountability, bullying, and intimidation tactics used against students, parents, and employees.

Switching gears - I am Excited to hear about the upcoming trip to Atlanta by the US Secretary of Education – Mr. Arne Duncan! I am sure that the students, parents, stakeholders, and constituents of Atlanta Public Schools (APS) welcome Mr. Duncan with open arms. Hopefully, during this visit to the Atlanta Public Schools, Mr. Duncan will garner some insight as to how to mend our broken school systems in the state of Georgia.

A quick piece of advice for our US Secretary of Education – Please find time in your (already busy) schedule to visit the students/parents/employees/stakeholders/and constituents of DeKalb County. These students really need your help! The business of Education is a serious one – for it establishes the life course and future of our up & coming generation. That being said – the voiceless, powerless, helpless students of DeKalb County desperately need your support – due to the abuse of power, widespread corruption, construction fraud, mismanagement of SPLOST funds, unethical behavior, cronyism, nepotism, and lack of accountability of those in power within the DeKalb County Government and the DeKalb County School Systems such as …

RONALD BERNARD RAMSEY, SR. – Georgia State Senator AND Director of Internal Affairs for DeKalb County School Systems

PATRICIA ANN REID POPE (and VINCENT ANTHONY POPE) – Chief Operating Officer of Design & Construction for DeKalb County School Systems

CRAWFORD LEWIS – Superintendent of DeKalb County School Systems

EUGENE WALKER – Elected Board of Education Member for DeKalb County School System

Thus far, the sitting District Attorney of DeKalb County, Gwen Keyes Fleming has NOT been of ANY ASSISTANCE due to Cronyism and the Georgia Attorney General, Thurbert E. Baker has NOT been of ANY ASSISTANCE due to Cronyism!
Actually, it is be sincere believe that a “State of Emergency” needs to be declared for the state of Georgia due to the widespread political connections and corruption that is occurring. The only viable solution is for the US Dept of Education to totally shut down the administration offices of DeKalb County and bring in their own people to run the school system until good, honest, ethical, qualified people can be found. A case similar to this, but far less egregious, happened in 1992 or ’93 with the Compton Unified School District in California.

Please help the students of DeKalb County get their education , Mr. Arne Duncan.

Please stop the bleeding & help the scared, intimidated employees of DeKalb County, Mr. Arne Duncan.

Please help the concerned but perplexed parents of DeKalb County, Mr. Arne Duncan.

Please help Jaheem Herrera’s family of DeKalb County, Mr. Arne Duncan….(the 5th grade student who committed “Bully-Cide” due to unrelentless bullying at Dunaire Elementary School – and Crawford Lewis, Ronald Ramsey, Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore has tried to cover-up DeKalb County School Systems culpability)!

Please feel free to contact me at justiceindekalb@mpta.us for substantiating documents or additional information!

Cerebration said...

Justice - bring us your evidence - we'd love to see it. Feel free to email it to us - (or I'll just email you)


BTW - you may not know this, but Dr. Lewis already knows Arne Duncan as they were both presenters for a symposium hosted by "America's Choice" (a program DCSS purchased from a recently retired DCSS Area Superintendent who now works for America's Choice).

Superintendent to Attend Americas Choice Symposium

Paula Caldarella said...

Justice, you offer a lot of accusations, but no evidence. Or do we need to purchase your book in order to see this evidence?