Delaware, Tennessee win Race to Top

Delaware and Tennessee have won Race To The Top funding in the first round.

Both had stakeholder buy-in (from the unions and school boards), the Education Department says. Politics K-12 points out another factor:

. . . Tennessee and Delaware just happen to be the home states of two powerful, Republican lawmakers the Obama administration is trying to court in its bipartisan push to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del. Both chair the subcommittees in their respective chambers dealing with K-12 policy, and both are considered leading moderate voices on education who have worked well with Democrats in the past.

Also noticing the Alexander and Castle factor, Flypaper’s Andy Smarick credits the Department for choosing only two winners, but says Delaware and Tennessee had plans that were good but not great.

The story here is just how important “stakeholder support” turned out to be. Florida, Louisiana, and Rhode Island had very good plans, but their unions didn’t buy in, especially in RI and FL.  So those states lost.

Two other finalists, North Carolina and Kentucky, had weak plans but high stakeholder support. They lost too.

. . . Florida, Louisiana, and Rhode Island now have to wonder, “What reforms do we give up in order to get our stakeholders to support the plan? Do we lighten up on teacher evaluations? Do we give up performance pay? Do we take it easier on failing schools.”

The need for stakeholder support could give unions and local school districts a “veto” over their state’s proposals, Smarick writes.

Giving a veto to the status quo’s defenders will make RTTT “meaningless,” writes Jay Greene. “If people know that union opposition scuttles a state’s chances, then no state will apply in the future unless they have union support.  This means that the unions will dictate what reforms will be pursued, which means that there will be virtually no reform.”

Rick Hess calls the results the Race To Consensus.

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’s plan is bold, writes J.E. Stone.

Mike Petrilli is better at handicapping RTTT winners than college basketball teams. His short list included: Delaware, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana and Massachusetts. Union support made a big difference, he writes.

Lifted from Russo, a cartoon by my old friend Signe Wilkinson, the mother of two blogging teachers, one in Philadelphia and one in Taiwan.

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  1. RTTT is not “meaningless”. Its primary purpose is to undermine the teacher unions while promoting policies that public school teachers generally oppose…that is, more charter schools (and thus fewer unions), and especially linking pay and promotion to student test scores. Duncan and Obama obviously believe that the states’ fiscal desperation will make them jump through any damn hoops to get a pot of federal money. And many states will.

    If RTTT succeeds in those things, it will only screw up education further. Charter schools, despite their capacity to cherry-pick students, produce scores that are no better on average than public schools.

    And holding teachers accountable for poor student performance is preposterous on its face. If the parents and students aren’t supportive of education, and if teachers at lower grade levels aren’t holding students to high standards, then it takes a miracle to turn a failing student around (in a single class, no less).

    The teachers are right. Obama wants to give them all the blame for educational failure without handing them any power to affect change.

  2. You think things are bad now just wait until some bright, young politician figures out that school districts spend vastly more tax money then necessary to educate kids.

    They’ll look at charter per student funding and then district per student funding and a light bulb will go on.


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