A “Race to the Top” Flip-Flop



By 12/02/2009

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The Wall Street Journal editorial page has already taken the Administration to task for backing away from some of its tougher “Race to the Top” provisions around teacher evaluations and charter schools in the program’s final application. But check out this morsel, thanks to Fordham’s ridiculously expensive but oh-so-handy subscription to Education Daily:

The department softened a proposal to use results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress to measure states’ progress over the past several years in boosting achieve­ment scores and closing achievement gaps be­tween subgroups.

The department had wanted to use NAEP data because it is a national assessment. But in the end, it bowed to complaints that the test, among other things, “may not provide accurate achievement information for students with dis­abilities and other subgroups.”

Thus, the department will now use results from state assessments in addition to NAEP to evaluate states’ efforts on this front.

Oh, that’s rich! After all, the whole “Race to the Top” lingo is in reference to the “Race to the Bottom” whereby states have rushed to set passing scores on their own tests at laughably low levels. (Though, truth be told, it turns out that it’s been more of a walk to the middle.)

Now states will be able to claim that they have “narrowed achievement gaps” when all they’ve done is make their tests so easy to pass that virtually all kids—black and white, rich and poor—do so, magically erasing any group differences.

Remember all the talk of “Moral Hazard” from a year ago? Here we go again, letting irresponsible states off the hook for, in Arne Duncan’s words, “lying” to the public about how well their students are doing. When will we ever learn?

UPDATE: Checker Finn noted to me in an email that it’s “also more than a little ironic that the Race to the Top places such heavy emphasis on states adopting COMMON standards and tests—precisely because of the failings of their own standards and tests—yet now gives them credit for “gains” on their own tests.”




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  • George Mitchell says:

    The Race to the Top is not likely to live up to its name. This in not surprising. Few if any of those in this discussion have their children in urban public schools. They have choice, i.e. Sidwell Friends.

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