Monday, January 25, 2010

On Your Mark, Get Set...

Last week, President Obama announced that he would expand the amount of money available for Race to the Top. As you know, Race to the Top is one of the more significant financial investments in education in our country's history. Though there is some debate about this, there is no question that this administration is working hard to take money off the table as an excuse for not being able to improve schools. Appropriately there are strings attached that include setting rigorous standards, attracting and retaining outstanding teachers, establishing data-driven decision-making, and innovating to turn around struggling schools.

The administration has increased funding because, as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the press release, “This competition has generated an overwhelming response from over 30 states in just the first round of funding." That the promise of pumping millions of dollars into states with budget issues has created "an overwhelming response" is an understatement.  The other day I heard someone who moves in those circles say, "This isn't 'Race to the Top' it's 'Sprint to the Money'."

As long as the mad dash has provisions for following the money to the finish line (it is the students' success, isn't it?), I am all for it.  If it is used to prop up local budgets so they can continue the industrial school on the agricultural calendar, I am not so sure.  We need a new way of being schools in this country.  A way that sees students as vocal partners not as silent spectators.  A way that includes attention to learning environment as well as learning material.  A way that values creativity and curiosity as much as the ability to accurately bubble in scannable tests. Finally, we need a way of being school that sees "the Top" to which we are striving as each and every students' dream for his or her life.  That race is a marathon, not a sprint.

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