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Education reform: California to join Race to the Top rush

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Other states that are still considering new education laws to make them more competitive in Race to the Top include Wisconsin, New York, Alabama, and Maine. And last year, numerous states changed their laws to be friendlier to charter schools or agreed to link teacher evaluations to test scores.

The Department of Education has made it clear that the grants – which will only be doled out to 10 to 20 states in the first round – will go to those states that are aligned with certain priorities, including an openness to charter schools, a willingness to connect student achievement to teacher performance, a commitment to tough standards, improving data collection, and using effective turnaround approaches for failing schools.

With money scarce, the funds have become highly sought, both for the money and the status they could confer in anointing certain states as education leaders.

“I’ve been doing federal education policy for 17 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Charles Barone, director of federal policy for Democrats for Education Reform, an advocacy group that has been tracking states’ efforts. “Usually it’s exactly the opposite: Money gets sent out, and then the federal government tries to compel states to do what they made a commitment to doing.… There’s been more state legislation [around education reform] in the last eight months than there was in the entire seven or eight years of No Child Left Behind, in terms of laws passed.”

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