Race to the Top for education reform

The education world is all a-Twitter this morning with reports of 40 states applying for the $4.35 billion in competitive education reform grants being funded through the U.S. Department of Education as part of the $787 billion economic stimulus program – American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – that President Barack Obama signed into law soon after taking office. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is asking for a cool $250 million in her application, which can be found in its 345-page glory here. If you just want what the governor’s office considers the highlights, you can find those in yesterday’s press release.

There are two rounds of competition for the grants, the deadline for the first being yesterday. Awards for that round will be announced in April and the application deadline for the second round is June 1. For the past two weeks, the listserv for the Education Writers Association was full of questions asking if anyone knew if their state had filed for the RTTT funds and/or when states planned to do so. Ironically for anyone who has sat through a teacher lecturing them on getting your work done early, most of the 40 states who applied did as Arizona did – wait until the deadline to turn the application in.

Now the talk on the listserv is about the states who are not posting their applications online, which is a no-no since there was much lipservice given to “transparency” when the stimulus dollars were first announced as part of the ARRA. The bloggers over at the newly launched edmoney.org – which has been set up specifically to track the spending of stimulus funds by state and school district – are calling out the slackers over here, if you want to see which states are dragging their feet in telling the public how public money is being spent in public schools.

For those not up with education stimulus funding, here’s a little background on the RTTT, courtesy of the governor’s office:

With Race to the Top, the U.S. Department of Education is asking states to build comprehensive and
coherent plans built around the four areas of reform outlined in ARRA, including: aid to struggling schools, improving data quality, supporting effective teachers and bettering standards and assessments. Race to the Top will reward states that have demonstrated success in raising student achievement and have the best plans to accelerate reforms in the future. The goal is for states to offer models for others to follow to spread the best reform ideas across the country. The application requires states to document their past success and outline their plans to extend their reforms by using college- and career-ready standards and assessments, building a workforce of highly effective educators, creating educational data systems to support student achievement, and turning around their lowest-performing schools.

Brewer’s office said her application noted the intent to increase and support more options for alternative certification to “attract the most qualified teachers” as well as creating a data system that would allow the public to be able to monitor student academic progress at various schools and adding a strong reading component through third grade and ending social promotion, among other plans. According to this story, John Wright, president of the state’s teachers union, decries alternative certification plans, saying more than 800 education majors graduated from the state’s three university teaching preparation programs in December “and we don’t have jobs for them.”

That’s discouraging news for the hundreds of laid-off workers like yours truly who’ve entered teacher certification programs this year, hoping for jobs in a year when we graduate. As for attracting the most qualified teachers, I still think hiking the base pay for teachers in this state would go a long way toward that. Just sayin’.

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One thought on “Race to the Top for education reform

  1. Teachers are paid absurdly low, no doubt about it.  My father was a teacher, and my next door neighbor is one also.  I can’t tell you how many times she’s been busy at 10 pm still grading papers.  She’s also teaching summer school, coaching sports teams, and keeps taking continuing education courses.  She’s also constantly buying things out of her own pocket to help teach her students.  It’s a grind, but she’s good at what she does.
     
    I understand the pushback against “alternative” teacher certifications as well.  Some people are naturally good teachers without any instruction, but a lot aren’t.  Colleges have teacher instruction for this reason.  I know how to do quite a bit of things very well, however, for some reason I am very lousy at showing others how to do these things.  I’m not the one you want in front of a classroom trying to explain complex concepts, even though I understand these concepts inside and out in many cases.

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