President Obama’s economic stimulus plan includes fast cash in the form of $4.35 billion to be used for improving America’s schools. His education initiative, entitled “Race to the Top,” rewards schools with the most ambitious plans to “improve schools and close the achievement gap,” writes MSNBC. Nine new “Race to the Top” winners have been announced to share this round’s $3.4 billion grant, according to the U.S. Department of Education: Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C. Grant amounts per state will be announced later. A later round with $350 million at stake for states that create new means of student assessment is still to come.
‘Race to the Top’ winners aren’t the only reformers
The grant competition “Race to the Top” has inspired numerous states that need the money to raise the education bar. New teacher accountability directives and no caps on funding for charter schools are two of many moves states have made to try to win the “Race to the Top” prize. In total, 35 states and the District of Columbia applied for round two, and the Department of Education chose 19 finalists from among that group in July. So far, 46 states and the District of Columbia have applied for “Race to the Top.”
Resistance from teachers unions and state education leaders
“Race to the Top” hasn’t met with universal approval. According to MSNBC, teachers unions were uneasy about signing on to any reforms that would connect teacher evaluations with student standardized test performance, while various state education officials expressed concern as to whether or not buying into reforms in the “Race to the Top” would mean that school districts would be giving up too much control to the federal government.
Reform America needs
The overall outlook has been positive. Democrats for Education Reform released a public statement in which the organization clearly showed that it has its finger on the pulse of what most of the nation is thinking about “Race to the Top.” The statement applauded the bold reform actions undertaken and expressed hope that under the president’s command, all groups involved in reform – from civil rights and child advocacy groups to local businesses and other grassroots education reform collectives – would work in harmony with teachers unions to produce results that have been needed in America for many years.
President Obama on “Race to the Top”