Last week, the Federal government finally released 775 pages of guidelines (really, 775 pages!) for states to use to apply for “Race to the Top” grants. I’ve been waiting for someone to read through it all and summarize the juicy bits but five days after the announcement there are still no comprehensive Cliffs Notes to be had. Still, there are a few places to learn more without doing the hard slog (I’m a policy wonk and my readers are dear to me, but there are limits!):
- The Executive Summary released by the Education Department (15 pages);
- George Stephanopolous (or whoever writes his blog for him) has a nice summary on the ABC News site;
- Sam Dillon of The New York Times also did a nimble and comprehensive summary.
It appears that the Education Department actually listened to some of the criticisms from people who really work in schools every day. The requirement that states allow a link between teacher assessment and student achievement stayed in, but it was mitigated by suggestions that such links be used to improve instruction rather than hiring or firing. Instead of insisting on an arbitrary increase in charter schools, the new rules suggest that states show that they are implementing innovative public school models that include, but are not limited to charter schools.
But here’s the real downer, at least if you live in California: the rules set out a formula for how much each state could receive (assuming its application is perfect). According to the formula, California could receive as much as $700 million — $700 million? That is a lot of money, no question, but it’s frankly a drop in the bucket when you consider how much California has already cut from education since September 2008. According to an analysis prepared by the California School Boards Association in August, the state has cut $12.5 billion in programs and cost of living adjustments, plus an additional $4.5 billion by deferring payments to future years.