Just as we’re wrapping up this series on education reform, President Obama announced a speech set for next Tuesday, September 8. In it, the Department of Education says the President will “challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.” At the same time, the comment period just ended for his proposed “Race to the Top” program. As described by Education Week:
The Race to the Top program is an education reform competition for states made possible by $4 billion from the $787 billion economic-stimulus package Congress passed in February. Details are still pending on a separate, $350 million grant competition through the Race to the Top Fund to help states’ efforts to adopt common assessments.
The plan has education experts in a quandary – of course they’re eager for funding, but they’re wary of how the money will be doled out. Some of the funds will go to charter schools, and some will be linked to teacher performance, which is to be evaluated by way of student test scores. As we discussed in the series, those are two big sticking points for teachers and school administrators. Charter schools have mixed results, and moderate accountability since they are run by private organizations. Evaluating teachers by the student test scores is dicey because teachers claim so many factors in the students’ lives is out of their control – plus, the tests are usually administered in January (in the middle of the school year – so which teacher gets the credit or the blame for how the students performed?).
Check back to this blog – we’ll be following the next steps…and talking to the people involved. For information about the guests we featured as part of this series, see list below. And as always, please let us know your thoughts and suggestions on this important subject.
Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City Public Schools
Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education and research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education
Michelle Rhee, chancellor of Washington, DC Public Schools
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers
Kati Haycock, President of the Education Trust
Jennifer Niles, Head of School, E.L. Haynes Public Charter School
Rafe Esquith, teacher at Hobart Elementary School in central Los Angeles and author, “Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire”
Sara Mead, Director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation
Paul Griffin, founder of City at Peace
Howard Gardner, John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education