Show me the reform

That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and your checks for free

Recession-battered schools spent stimulus money to preserve the status quo and protect jobs and programs, writes Andy Smarick, a former deputy assistant secretary of education, in Toothless Reform? on Education Next. The Department of Education’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top fund could go the same way unless Arne Duncan can become “the toughest schoolmarm in America.”

Moving forward, the administration might reconsider talk of “moon shots” and transformational change and instead adopt a more humble creed: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

States will promise to do things Duncan’s way to get more money, Smarick writes. Then they’ll find ways to fudge on implementation.

. . . As others have noted, the federal government can make states and districts do what they don’t want to, but it can’t make them do it well.

In hopes of qualifying for Race to the Top funds states have lifted charter school caps and ended prohibitions on linking student performance data to individual teachers, Smarick writes.

The department should remember that while many states permit linking teachers to student test scores, few districts actually do so, and that while Virginia and Mississippi have each had a charter law for more than a decade, combined they have only five charter schools. In November, Tennessee provided a perfect and alarming example of how this might play out with regard to RTTT: though the state lifted its charter cap as Duncan desired, in the span of two days Memphis and Nashville denied all 24 charter applications submitted to them.

While Duncan says RTTT “is not about the money,” governors want the cash, Smarick writes. They’ll make lots of promises to get it. But will they follow through?

Update: Forty states and the District of Columbia have applied for RTT money in the first round.

About Joanne


  1. The lyric is:

    Money For Nothing lyrics

    Now look at them yo-yo’s, that’s the way you do it
    You play the guitar on the M.T.V.
    That ain’t working, that’s the way you do it
    Money for nothing and your chicks for free.

    Grin. Makes more sense that way, anyway.


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