I’m in San Diego this week at the California School Boards Association Annual Conference, and California’s efforts to qualify for Race to the Top funding are Topic Number One. From where I’m sitting, it looks to me like local school boards are growing increasingly disenchanted with the Obama Administration’s central education reform strategy. As one Southern California school board member memorably put it yesterday, “Are we willing to take the carrot [Race to the Top funding] for poor public policy that I’m going to have to live with for the next 10 or 11 years?”
This Hobson’s choice couldn’t come at a worse time for California school districts, which have already cut millions and are looking at cutting millions more in the years to come (we also got a pretty depressing budget outlook, which I’ll post later). It’s sure tempting to look at the possibility of California receiving up to $700 million in RtTT funding as a way to cushion that blow; but more and more I’m concluding that the price is just too high. What is that “price,” exactly?
- a strange fascination with charter schools, despite the fact that research shows that the track records of charter schools in raising student achievement are as mixed as traditional public schools’;
- a narrow-minded insistence on linking student test scores with teacher evaluation;
- a requirement that states adopt common core standards, even though many of those standards are lower than California’s existing academic standards.
And here’s the worst part: whether or not California school districts “just say no” to RtTT funding, the CSBA legislative analyst believes the above rules are coming to us anyway, eventually, through the reauthorization of NCLB (now re-titled the more neutral “Elementary and Secondary Education Act” — ESEA).