RI Misses out on Race to the Top
Delaware and Tennessee won bragging rights Monday as the nation’s top education innovators, besting the District and 13 other finalists to claim a share of the $4 billion in President Obama’s unprecedented school reform fund.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan picked the winners after a team of judges in the Race to the Top competition unexpectedly gave tiny Delaware the highest ranking, with Tennessee close behind. Delaware won as much as $107 million and Tennessee could be awarded $502 million.
Leaders in both states pledged to establish national models for data-driven reform, tying teacher evaluation to student performance in an all-out effort to close achievement gaps.
Georgia, ranked third in the contest, and Florida, considered a favorite to win, fell just short of a threshold for awards that Duncan set himself. More than $3 billion remains in the fund, and they could win some in a future round.
On to round two.
UPDATE: EdWeek’s Rick Hess doesn’t like it:
Looking at Delaware and Tennessee leaves me thinking that all the talk about bold reform was window dressing. The states that explicitly set out to blow past conventions, and devil take the hindmost, fell by the wayside. Florida and Louisiana’s bold, action-backed plans–which reflected a belief that they could push forward if they did so only with the eager and willing–lost out to states that obtained laughable levels of buy-in from school districts, school boards, and local teachers’ unions.
Tennessee boasted that it had obtained signatures of participation from 100% of Local Education Agency (LEA) superintendents, 100% from the presidents of local school boards, and 93% from the local teachers’ union leaders. Delaware bragged that it obtained 100% of the signatures in each category. Is this really a good thing? When Louisiana faced board pushback because of the boldness of its proposals, and when Florida endured an FEA boycott over its own proposed measures, the decision to go with Delaware and Tennessee looks like the triumph of process over substance. If anyone believes that Delaware can get 100%–or even 60%–of districts or union leaders to sign on to efforts to dramatically retool K-12 schooling, I’ve got a couple of handsome monuments in downtown D.C. I’d like to sell them.
Placing this much weight on ‘stakeholder support’ is going to feed cynicism about the sincerity of Duncan’s calls for bold, transformative change. Hard to square this very conventional emphasis on consensus with all his tough talk.
UPDATE II: Rhode Island finished 8th of 15 finalists. Apparently, Ed Sec Arne Duncan has said that there will be 10-15 Race to the Top winners in Round 2. Here are the Final rankings, by points scored in the evaluation (via Politics K-12 twitter):
DE – 454
TN – 444.2
GA – 433.6
FL – 431.4
IL – 423.8
SC – 423.2
PA – 420
RI – 419
KY – 418.8
OH – 418.6
LA – 418.2
NC – 414
MA – 411.4
CO – 409.6
NY – 408.6
DC – 402.4