Race to the top: Obama’s golden handcuffs?

Today’s New York Times has a good article on the golden handcuffs represented by Obama’s “Race to the Top” fund for education. I’m so annoyed by this whole thing: it seems that unprecedented Federal money for education has been tied to a relatively narrow and hard line reform agenda.

Specifically, the Department of Education has published proposed priorities for its $4.3 billion “Race to the Top” fund that would eliminate any state that refuses to explicitly link student achievement data to identifiable teacher information.  This is controversial, and not just among teachers — for one thing, it increases the reliance on high-stakes testing at a time when many of us were hoping that the new administration would have a more nuanced approach to student assessment. For another, there really isn’t any data that says the best way to measure an effective teacher is to look at his or her students’ test scores. Testing might be part of the picture, but it’s not everything. It’s very disappointing that the Obama admininstration is prepared to continue some of the worst aspects of No Child Left Behind.

I submitted a comment (PDF) on the proposed priorities tonight, and encourage anyone who is interested in this issue to do the same (you have until August 28 to do so, but don’t wait). It’s also very interesting to read the comments submitted by others; I was particularly struck with sharp  comments submitted by Diane Ravitch, a former Assistant Secretary of Education under the first President Bush. Ravitch says:

I think the DOE should respect the requirements of federalism and look to states to offer their best ideas rather than mandating policies that the current administration likes, even though there is no evidence to support them.

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