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Posted at 9:30 AM ET, 05/26/2010

Ravitch's 10 reasons to 'no' to Race to the Top

By Valerie Strauss

This is another post written by education historian Diane Ravitch on her Bridging Differences blog that she co-authors with Deborah Meier on the Education Week website.

On the blog, Ravitch and Meier write letters to each other about what matters most in education. Ravitch, a research professor at New York University, is the author of the bestselling “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” in which she talks about how evidence compelled her to drop her support of No Child Left Behind.

Here's her latest letter to Meier:

Dear Deborah,
As I have traveled the country, from Boston to Los Angeles and points in between, I have met thousands of teachers who work in our nation’s public schools. The overwhelming mood is one of demoralization, and, in some cases, despair.

They thought that President Obama would break free from the test-based accountability of No Child Left Behind, and now they realize that he plans to apply even tougher penalties based on test scores. Many of them know how phony the tests are—even Secretary Arne Duncan has said that the current generation of state tests are bad—yet the fate of teachers will now rest on these same inadequate tests.

As I listened to teachers and principals, I concluded that states and districts should not participate in the Race to the Top. It might better be called the Race to Nowhere, or as some have dubbed it, the Race to the Trough or the Dash to the Cash.

Here are my top 10 reasons for saying 'no':

1. The money that states win cannot plug budget gaps, but must be applied to meeting the requirements of the Race.

2. The Race demands that states evaluate teachers by their students’ test scores. Some states are legislating that 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be based on student scores. There is no basis in research or science for 50 percent or 20 percent or any other number. Of course, supervisors should take test scores into account when evaluating teachers, but they should not be required to use a fixed percentage, determined arbitrarily by legislators.

3. The issue of how to evaluate teachers should be resolved by professional associations, working in concert, such as the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Education, and other professional groups. The state legislatures do not determine how other professionals should be evaluated; they don’t know. Nor do they know how teachers should be evaluated. Why doesn’t the U.S. Department of Education convene the leading professional organizations and give them a grant to design the ideal method of evaluating teacher performance? Why should such an important issue be determined by political negotiation rather than by professional standards?

4. The NCLB-induced obsession with testing and test-prep activities will intensify under Race to the Top because teachers will know that their future, their reputation, and their livelihood depend on getting the scores higher, by any means necessary.

5. By raising the stakes for tests even higher, Race to the Top will predictably produce more teaching to bad tests, more narrowing of the curriculum, more cheating, and more gaming the system. If scores rise, it will be the illusion of progress, rather than better education. By ratcheting up the consequences of test scores, education will be corrupted and cheapened. There will be even less time for history, geography, civics, foreign languages, literature, and other important subjects.

6. The Race requires states to increase the number of privately managed schools. There is no basis in research for this requirement. Privately managed schools have been compared with regular public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress since 2003, and they have never outperformed them. The Stanford CREDO study found that 17 percent of charter schools were better than matched traditional public schools, 46 percent performed about the same, and 37 percent were worse than traditional public schools. Not an impressive showing.

7. The Race promotes the de-professionalization of education by encouraging alternate paths into teaching and leadership. No other nation has built a successful public school system by increasing the number of non-professionals in the classroom or in the job of principal or superintendent. We need better-educated, better-prepared teachers; we need principals who are master teachers; we need superintendents who are knowledgeable educators.

8. Many public schools will be closed down to comply with the demands of Race to the Top. These schools will be heavily concentrated in poor and minority communities, robbing them of their social capital. This will destabilize communities without any assurance that better schools will be created. Schools that enroll large numbers of low-performing students will be heedlessly closed, even if their staff is doing a good job in the face of difficult challenges.

9. Race to the Top erodes state control of public education, a basic principle of our federal system of government throughout our history. Now, states will dance to whatever tune the U.S. Department of Education feels like playing. Will a different administration demand school prayer and vouchers in exchange for billions?

10. Race to the Top erodes local control of education by prompting legislatures to supersede local school boards on any issues selected by federal bureaucrats.

I hope I am wrong, but I believe that 10 years from now, we will look back with regret and even shame on this misuse of federal power. Books will be written analyzing where these ideas came from and why they were foisted on the nation’s public schools at a time of fiscal distress. And we will be left to wonder why so much money and energy was spent promoting so many dubious ideas.


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By Valerie Strauss  | May 26, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Diane Ravitch, Guest Bloggers, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top  | Tags:  arne duncan, bridging differences, diane ravitch, no child left behind, race to the top, ravitch and race to the top  
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"The overwhelming mood is one of demoralization, and, in some cases, despair."

Just what everyone wants! A demoralized teacher in front of every classroom! So much for enthusiasm and dedication. I'm so glad my kids are finished with school. This is the beginning of the end of public schools.

Posted by: musiclady | May 26, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

California news & views re: "Race to the Top" - Round 2 MOU - (SEE EXCERPT BELOW) -- "San Diego Unified spokesman Bernie Rhinerson said the same reasons that kept the school district from pursuing Race to the Top (Round 1) are even more pressing this time: the requirements are too limiting and the process is rushed. The school board has not voted formally on it, but Rhinerson said there was little interest in the idea. It isn't the only educational group with doubts: The California County Superintendents Educational Services Association sent out an
e-mail saying that with a short timeline, little detail about what resources schools would get to make reforms and 'the total lack of state policy direction,' they WOULDN'T recommend that school districts sign on. San Diego County Superintendent Randy Ward forwarded that e-mail to superintendents across San Diego County, writing simply that he agreed. " --
see article source --

Hedge Fund/Profiteers scamsters & the Billionaire Boys' toy think-tanks, along with their paid-for pundits & planted shills, have fomented a lot of disingenuous (ie. gilded, 'false gold', misleading) cheerleading & slanted hype about RTTT.
But, let's look clearly at reality --
Financial Facts: California's share of the current funding round would only be maximum $700 million, (with only 50% of that -- or $ 350 million -- to be divided among participating LEA's and the other half going to the state for disbursement as Title I funding, etc.). So, if there is $350 million divided between 91 districts and 200 charter schools, an entire school district might only receive $1 or 2 million dollars, with charter schools receiving only a few thousand dollars. This one-time pittance would NOT sufficiently pay for the initial expense and would NOT cover the substantial ongoing costs of implementing the required, binding so-called reforms, increased testing regimens & curricula, profiteering consultants fees (such as 'The Parthenon Group'), data systems & analysts positions, performance/merit pay schemes, and the setting up of an additional statewide bureaucracy of the RTTT Board.

Posted by: honestaction | May 26, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

It will cost states a massive amount of money to implement race to the top.

Posted by: resc | May 26, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Here, in Washington state, our local teacher's union agreed to support RTTT because they were afraid "if we didn't we wouldn't have a seat at the table" when state bureaucrats started dictating terms of the reform. Talk about demoralized? How about brow-beaten to the point they don't realize they have little left to lose. What has happened to intellectual integrity? Thank you Ms. Ravitch for speaking out.

Posted by: speakuplouder | May 26, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

When I retired two years ago, I didn't think trends could get much worse. This clear-sighted analysis shows that yes,
the trends led by RTTT are making things worse, and how and why.

With the mindset represented by RTTT, why would anyone with a decent brain want to go into teaching for a career?

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | May 26, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad to see Diane Ravitch is still making sense. Will anyone listen?

Posted by: celestun100 | May 26, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

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