February 14, 2011

Race to the Top or Race to the Trough? The Federal and Corporate Takeover of Public Education in America

Schools today are all about showmanship and commercialization, mostly to garner long-lost parental and other taxpayer support, as well as to keep kids institutionalized, where they can be watched instead of out doing Lord-knows-what. Toward these ends, Los Angeles schools are among the costliest, according to the AP story — $377 million for the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center in 2008, and "$232 million for the Visual and Performing Arts High School that debuted in 2009." But California is not alone, and it is noteworthy that "some of the most expensive schools are found in low-performing districts" — New York City has a $235 million campus and New Brunswick, New Jersey, opened a $185 million high school last January. AP reporter Christina Hoag points out that dozens of the nation’s schools, in fact, have surpassed the $100 million mark, "with amenities including atriums, orchestra-pit auditoriums, food courts, even bamboo nooks." - Beverly K. Eakman, Barack Obama's $4.35 Billion "Race to the Trough", August 27, 2010, New American

A UN study has concluded that South Korea and Japan have the most effective education systems. The U.S. ranked 18th. Each year the amount spent on U.S. public education continues to increase without yielding any improvement. In 2009-2010, the federal ($60.4 billion), state ($268.8 billion), and local ($260.1 billion) revenue contributions for public education totaled almost $600 billion.

On February 14, 2011, Obama sent to Congress his budget for 2012. In it he asks for a 38.5 percent increase in funding for education (total discretionary spending of $77.4 billion) even as he calls for a five-year freeze on domestic spending. Obama wants $900 million for a new round of funds for the Race to the Top initiative that the administration says has spurred critical school reforms. The competitive education grant program will be geared toward school districts, as opposed to awarding money to states as was done last year. - The Associated Press, Highlights of Obama's $3.73 Trillion Budget for 2012, February 14, 2011

As cash-strapped school districts lay off teachers and close campuses, publicly-funded charter schools are flourishing and altering the landscape of public education. Despite a painful economic downturn, the charter school movement is expanding rapidly across the country with support from the Obama administration, wealthy donors such as Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey, and the highly publicized documentary "Waiting for Superman." - Charter Schools Expand with Public, Private Money, Associated Press, January 21, 2011

Education: Race to the Top?: Part I

Is your child on the runaway train of academic overachievement?

By Jim Taylor, Ph.D., Psychology Today
January 31, 2010

Race to the Top is the name given to President Obama's education-reform program that is supposed to change the education system in America. But what it should be called is Race to Nowhere, which happens to be the name of a powerful new documentary by Vicki Abeles that explores, as the film's subtitle states, the dark side of America's achievement culture.

I saw Race to Nowhere last week with my wife and was blown away by its message. As the father of two young girls, it scared the heck out of me what lies ahead for them. And as the author of two parenting books with similar messages as the film, it was a real reminder of the very human and societal costs of our current education system. Through interviews with students, parents, teachers, and other educators, and bookended by a story about a 13-year-old girl who committed suicide after failing a math test, we see the price that so many young people are paying for trying to hang onto the runaway train of academic overachievement.

The pressure young people are under to achieve that elusive notion of success has become, for many, a crippling weight on their shoulders and the price tag is high. Race to Nowhere presents some compelling arguments against the emphasis on test scores that increased exponentially with the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (it should be called the Almost Every Child Left Behind Act, given its abysmal record in raising test scores or graduation rates, much less actually educating children). Students now focus on memorizing facts (and then forget them shortly after), find learning to be aversive rather than inspiring, and see no problem with cheating to get ahead (in the 1940s, 20% of students admitted to cheating in high school; today, well over 75% make the same admission).

The physical and psychological toll is heavy as well. Students rate academic stress as their greatest source of stress, exceeding family problems and bullying. Rates of stress-related illness, depression, anxiety, and burnout are on the rise. Academic-performance-enhancing drugs, such as the ADHD drug Adderall to enhance energy and focus and beta blockers to reduce anxiety, are SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) on high-school and college campuses. And teenage suicide rates, particularly among teenage girls, have increased dramatically in recent years.

What is this culture of faux achievement like? Let's look at more statistics from the film. More than 70% of young people don't get the recommended amount of sleep for their stage of development (and sleep is essential for healthy brain development). Children have lost 12 hours of free time each week while homework time has increased by 50%. Homework is now given as early as first grade and reaches its apogee in high school where students now spend up to seven hours a night on homework, despite evidence demonstrating that it has no value up to 5th grade and loses its value if greater than one hour for middle-school students and two hours for high-school students. And talk about being unprepared; 40% of students require remedial classes when they get to college.

The numbers are truly frightening, but the interviews of students, parents, and teachers in Race to Nowhere really hit home. The frustration among teachers, the sadness among students, and the fear and pain felt by parents bring the cold, hard data to life. No parent can leave the film without a profound feeling of disgust at our education system, a mama or papa bear's instinct to protect their cubs, a determination to catalyze a transformation, and, sadly, a feeling of futility about changing such an inertial system.

How did this pressure-cooker of an achievement culture (and, by the way, it can be found in sports and the arts as well as in school) develop? There are many culprits, some legitimate and others manufactured and dishonest. The economic instability and uncertainty that has increased in recent years has created genuine fear among parents for their children's future. This fear drives parents to push their children relentlessly to ensure that they get ahead in school. Popular culture, and the aspirational dreams it has spawned, has redefined the meaning of success upward in terms of wealth, status, and materialism, so that being merely competent at one's job and comfortable in one's lifestyle is akin to failure; everything must be bigger and better and more, more, more. The availability and demand for a college education, particularly in the "best" schools (read Ivy League or its equivalent), have far outpaced supply, so competition is greater than ever (I attended Middlebury College back in the day, but I probably couldn't get accepted now with my GPA and SAT scores). The child-development, tutoring, and testing industries are an almost $10 billion scam that feeds on the fears of parents that their children will be left behind.

The ramifications for the students themselves extend beyond the current physical and psychological toll; there may very well be a price they pay in their futures. For example, such a mind- and body-numbing educational experience will suck any joy of learning they may have right out of them. The current emphasis on rote memorization will sap their internal motivation to learn. As highlighted in Race to Nowhere, today's students may lack the critical thinking, creativity, and focus necessary to survive, much less thrive, as they enter higher education and the working world.

The toll on our country may be equally dramatic. Are we leaving this generation's young people ill prepared to assume the mantle of leadership? Will they have the knowledge and tools necessary to continue America's arc as the frontrunner in innovation and progress? The low rankings currently held by our students compared to other countries on international achievement tests don't bode well for their or our future.

Is there hope? I'm not optimistic that effective federal or even state education reform will ever happen given the political hot potato that it is. But there appears to be a smidgen of hope at other points in the educational food chain. Colleges and universities, one of the big culprits of this academic arms race, have the power to ratchet down the pressure and some appear to be getting the message. A growing number of prominent schools are not accepting AP courses or are making SAT scores optional. Some high schools are following this lead by abolishing AP classes from their curricula (with, by the way, no damage to college acceptances).

So what can you do to provoke educational reform in your schools? Be active in your school's parent association. Show the school administration the latest research findings. Join your local school board. Be a squeaky wheel in your children's schools. Be willing to buck the system. Make the need for change urgent and immediate; you don't want your kids to miss out!

Lastly, and at the bottom of the educational food chain, the only educational reform you have total control over is that of your own family. You should give serious thought to how you want your children to be educated and then explore school options that are consistent with your educational philosophy. Whether public, charter, private, or home schools, you have choices in where your children go to school. As Vicki Abeles demonstrated in Race to Nowhere, you have the power to step off that runaway train.

Education: Race to the Top?: Part II

Is the Race to the Top real education reform?

By Jim Taylor, Ph.D., Psychology Today
February 8, 2010

In my recent post, Race to the Top?: Part I, I described the academic achievement rat race in which students near the top of the educational food chain strive maniacally to win (or at least finish). I argued that the emphasis on testing by former President Bush's No Child Left Behind law (NCLB) and continued with President Obama's Race to the Top initiative (RTTT) has only exacerbated the problem better characterized by the title of the powerful new documentary by Vicki Abeles, Race to Nowhere. This post, in contract, explores how RTTT impacts those students and schools at the other end of the educational food chain, those who are just trying to survive in the turbulent sea of American public education.

The first mistake that this administration made was to call education reform a race. Races connote winners and losers. Yet, we need to ensure that all our students and schools are winners. I think a more appropriate name for this initiative is Climb to the Top because the focus should be on how to get to the top.

The administration's second mistake was to continue Bush's initial mistake of focusing on testing; instead of being a tool for education reform, testing has morphed into the end-all, be-all of said reform. Yes, assessment is essential for determining the effectiveness of programs such as RTTT aimed at achieving something as ethereal and elusive as education reform or the more tangible goal of closing the education and economic gaps between the haves and have-nots. At the same time, improved test scores should not be the ultimate objective of education reform.

This notion that test results are the essential goal of education reform has created an environment in which teachers must "teach to the test;" students aren't really educated so much as prepared to pass tests so schools and states can get federal funding. School administrators hate teaching to the test because schools become fact factories instead of houses of learning. Teachers hate it because they are forced into a very small curricular box and are not allowed to do what they love to do, namely, educate young people. And students hate it because rote memorization of facts is neither interesting nor motivating, and they don't get a real education.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of NCLB is that it HASN'T WORKED! In the eight plus years in which NCLB has been in place, there have been few appreciable or lasting gains in test scores for which NCLB can take credit. What it has overwhelmingly succeeded at is driving schools and states to game the system (i.e., lower standards, cherry pick data) to keep the federal-funding spigot flowing. RTTT changes some parameters, but the same philosophy and methodology persist. When we continue down this road, we are validating the well-known Law of Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

A third mistake our government has made is to allow improving test scores to supersede actually educating our children. For example, in a recent New Yorker article profiling the new U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the Department of Education mandates that states must fulfill "four assurances" to receive federal stimulus money: "progress in raising standards, in recruiting and retaining effective teachers, in tracking students' and teachers' performance, and in turning around failing schools." Only one, the recruitment and retention of effective teachers, is a goal that directly impacts the quality of education. The first and last are simply amorphous outcomes that will hopefully result from reform. And the third goal is simply a measurement procedure that may or may not be useful in assessing the effectiveness of the reform.

Though these criteria may be useful, they are far afield of what of takes to truly improve the quality of education that our children receive in public schools. These "assurances" also obscure the real steps that must be taken to catalyze significant education reform and gloss over the meaningful results of actually educating our children.

What I find so maddening about RTTT is the absence of any discussion of meaningful process or outcome goals. Tests results aren't an outcome, they are a measure of outcome. What should the real outcome goals be? To answer that question, we need to gaze into the future with our crystal balls and figure out what knowledge and skill sets young people will need to play a vital role in our country's future. Obviously, they must have the basics, the 3 Rs. But those basics will only get our next generation so far in a world that grows increasingly complex by the year.

Today's young people need be capable of thinking critically, being creative, consistent effort, patience and perseverance, performing under pressure, and working effectively as a group, among others. And, just as importantly, our education system must produce well-informed citizens capable of participating actively in our democracy.

With those clear outcome goals in place, it's now possible to create a set of process goals to achieve those outcome goals. Here's a few for starters: build family, community, and school cultures in which interest in learning and educational aspirations are the norm; create home and school environments that support and encourage learning; instill a love of and motivation to learn; meet the individual needs of students; and teach good life skills and study habits.

With those process goals identified, we can develop a set of procedures to achieve the process goals which will then fulfill the outcome goals. There is actually good evidence for what some of those procedures are. One of the most robust findings, not surprisingly, is competent teachers. Small class sizes give those capable teachers the chance to really connect with and impact their students. Though I haven't seen any data on this, I would assume a safe school environment is essential to learning. And perhaps the most important, and daunting, contributor is an early home environment that provides positive role models, rich verbal interaction, consistent exposure to reading, and opportunities to learn essential life skills such as goal setting, self-discipline, and time management, all of which will serve young people well as they progress through school.

Arne Duncan has a very big carrot, about seventy billion dollars, with which to motivate states, schools, educators, parents, and students to reform our public-education system. But incentive without the means to harness that motivation is akin to wanting to drive somewhere, but not having a map or even a destination. And RTTT offers neither.

Secretary Duncan would be wise to read a recent commentary in the New York Times by Susan Engel. In the piece, Dr. Engel advocates an overhaul of the educational curriculum itself that is based on our scientific understanding of child development and effective teaching practices. The focus should be on what and how children learn, not on what and how they can pass a test. As she suggests, we need to develop "a curriculum designed to raise children rather than test scores."

Billions upon billions of dollars have been spent over many decades in the name of education reform with nothing appreciable to show for it. Remember the Law of Insanity? Secretary Duncan has an historic opportunity to spearhead real education reform. So, yes, spend the money, but, far more importantly, give educators what they need so we will finally get the real results for which we have been waiting for so long: educated children capable of working toward and achieving the American Dream.

Schools "Race to the Trough" for Grants

"It's the race to the trough," said Grover Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "They need money and the only way to get it is to compete for federal funds and the only way to do that is to dance to Washington's tune."

By David Harrison, Stateline.org
June 9, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, Oklahoma's Board of Education voted to deny state funds to a small school in Adair County near the Arkansas line, effectively closing it. It was a traumatic move, but the school had not been able to make payroll and the state felt it had no choice.
"I suspect we'll see a lot of that," says Sandy Garrett, who has been Oklahoma's chief education officer for almost 20 years. "We have a lot of others that are on real shaky ground. We'll know more when they close out their books on June 30."
Oklahoma, which has a total state budget of about $7 billion, faced a $1.2 billion deficit this year, forcing lawmakers to turn to unproven revenue-generating schemes such as new fines on uninsured motorists. Garrett expects more shortfalls ahead. But Oklahoma, like other states, got a reprieve last year when federal stimulus money allowed the retention of more than 4,600 school jobs.

This year, states are once again pinning their hopes on the Obama administration even as their education budgets have been walloped by disintegrating revenues. The federal government is dangling a $4 billion carrot in the form of its Race to the Top program, based on competitive grants which were included in the $787 billion stimulus package and for which states can apply. The first two winners, Delaware and Tennessee, split $600 million, leaving $3.4 billion up for grabs. Last week, 35 states and the District of Columbia applied for the second round of grants. Winners will be announced in the fall. Federal officials expect 10 to 15 states to walk away with money.

The conflict between staggering shortfalls and federal largess has forced upon legislators nationwide a renewed preoccupation with education policy. To many desperate lawmakers, federal aid is their only protection against crushing cutbacks in school programs. And they've been willing to sign off on seemingly radical reforms in order to improve their odds of landing the federal money.
"It's the race to the trough," says Grover Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "They need money and the only way to get it is to compete for federal funds and the only way to do that is to dance to Washington's tune."
Gail Foresee, a member of the Oklahoma State Board of Education, wipes away a tear after voting to pull the accreditation of a small school in the northeastern part of the state last month. School officials and legislatures across the country have been struggling with drastic budget cuts while trying to reel in new federal grants.

A thousand cuts

There was a time when K-12 school funding was considered all but untouchable in the state budget process, but those days are over nearly everywhere. Last year, 34 states reduced K-12 education funding in their budgets, according to the National Governors' Association. Another six had to make cuts later, after their budgets were enacted.

This year, 31 states made cuts. Arizona slashed all-day kindergarten. Hawaii furloughed teachers for 17 days. Vermont and Mississippi are considering consolidation of districts. In Oklahoma, the Legislature passed a bill allowing local districts to opt out of some state requirements to save money. And in Utah and Louisiana, districts discussed going to a four-day school week.

It could get worse. Last month, Congress failed to pass an emergency funding bill to pump $23 billion into schools to save jobs. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote in an op-ed this week that the bill could have saved up to 300,000 school jobs at a time when stimulus funding is winding down.

The picture is just as bad for higher education. In the 2010 fiscal year, 36 states made cuts to their college or university systems and 31 included cuts in their 2011 budgets. Some of those reductions were later backfilled with stimulus funds, but tuition has gone up, staff have been laid off and programs have been eliminated. A 32 percent tuition increase in California last fall led to student demonstrations at campuses across the state.

Faced with continuing grim prospects, dozens of states signed off on the Obama administration's pet initiatives for K-12 education in the hopes of landing some Race to the Top money. For instance, Connecticut and Louisiana agreed to include student test scores as part of teachers' job evaluations. Maryland, Kentucky and North Carolina will abandon their state-specific academic standards and adopt a common set of goals. Legislators in Oklahoma and New York have loosened their restrictions on charter schools. States also have been courting labor, because teacher union buy-in improves the odds of winning a grant.

These are not new ideas. Advocates have been pushing for these changes for years but opposition from the unions and lukewarm political support made them almost impossible to implement. Perhaps most important, there weren't billions of federal dollars on the line back then.

But even with the lure of Race to the Top money, shepherding these bills through legislatures has not been easy. In New York, a bill to increase the number of charter schools died in January, to the consternation of Governor David Paterson, who had hoped to use this reform to win money in the first round of Race to the Top grants. Lawmakers finally approved raising the charter school limit last month, days before applications for the second round were due.

In Colorado, a bill to reform teacher evaluations became one of the year's most contentious pieces of legislation. It brought lawmakers to tears in committee meetings and on the floor and split the state's Democratic Party. In Florida, Republican Governor Charlie Crist bucked his party and vetoed a similar bill to link teacher evaluation to student test scores. The bill, which drew vehement union opposition, drove a wedge between the state's GOP and Crist, who was at the time seeking the party's nomination for the U.S. Senate. Two weeks later, Crist announced he would run for the Senate as an independent.

Growing Federal Presence

The Race to the Top grant program cements Washington's high-visibility role in education, a role that has been growing since 2001, when Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, requiring that states show steady increases in student proficiency. Unlike that earlier piece of legislation, Race to the Top is a voluntary program created entirely by the Obama administration and funded by the stimulus package that Congress approved last year. Rather than mandating that states make changes, as No Child Left Behind did, it offers incentives designed to be too big to turn down.
"It not only increases the federal influence," says Whitehurst, "but it increases the federal influence through mechanisms that are difficult for states to handle politically. They can't talk to their congressional delegation and say we don't want to do this, because the federal delegation has already given away the keys. Just on pure execution and cleverness it's been a home run for the administration."
Despite the size of the incentives, some states have chosen to sit out the process completely. Texas and Alaska declined to apply for either round of grants. Virginia, which applied in the first round of Race to the Top, passed on applying the second time. In a letter to Education Secretary Duncan, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell objected to the common core standards, calling them "overly prescriptive" and arguing that the state's own standards are higher than the proposed common ones.

But Virginia may not be able to stay on the sidelines for long. Common national standards are part of the Obama administration's blueprint for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a process that is several years overdue. With an election in November, Congress is unlikely to tackle school policy this year. But when Washington turns its attention to education, it's likely that many of the reforms laid out in Race to the Top will be included in federal proposals. In that sense, this year's flurry of state legislative action could well be a dress rehearsal for an even bigger national debate.

Just Say No to the Race to the Top

By Diane Ravitch, Education Week Blog
May 25, 2010

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.

Race to the Top and the Politics of Corruption

Believe it or not, the federal government is giving Race to the Top education grants to school districts more notable for the voting blocs they represent than the scores that they post.

By Jim Horn, School Matters
April 6, 2010

Arne Duncan became Secretary of Education because of his fealty to the corporate education reform agenda that he nurtured and learned under in Chicago. When it was time for Arne, as Secretary, to announce the leader for the $4.35 billion bribery fund known as Race to the Top, the Oligarchs chose Joanne Weiss, COO and Partner of the New Schools Venture Fund--a vast web of corporate and corporate foundation cash strategically invested in the cause of privatizing education, all the while collecting huge tax credits for all that generosity by these vulture philanthropists. Duncan said:
"Joanne will help us push a strong reform agenda that is entrepreneurial in spirit, providing carrots and sticks, to change the way we do business, and fundamentally turn around underperforming schools in ways that last for decades," Duncan said.
Now when tiny Delaware submitted its RTTT grant application, a Boston non-profit corporation, Mass Insight, was instrumental in helping Delaware to develop its school turnaround plans. Mass Insight's favorite turnaround model is the same one that Arne and Billionaire Boys' Club prefer:
The consequences for failing to reform test scores will have more bite. The state is going to create a team to oversee these schools, with leadership coming from Mass Insight Education & Research Institute, a Boston group that favors replacing the staff and leadership when overhauling a failing school. Mass Insight, which receives funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among other corporations and educational reform partnerships, supports the type of reform model that led to the recent firing of the principal and teachers at Rhode Island's Central Falls High School.

The Rhode Island district's move also won praise from Duncan and Obama.

In the coming months and years in Delaware, there will be penalties -- including loss of funding -- for schools that fail to improve, according to the state's Race to the Top application.

Previous attempts at school reform in Delaware were unsuccessful because they focused on changing programs, said Justin Cohen, the president of Mass Insight. Research has shown that to make a change there needs to be far-reaching staffing changes, he said, but school leaders have historically chosen the "path of least resistance.
Now where do the geniuses at Mass Insight get their piles of non-profit to help states develop plans that the judges really like? Well, they happen to get their sponsorship from the same people who wrote the Race Rules and whose COO is, indeed, the Race Director:

Just continue to follow the money. This race to the trough will make the Reading First crooks under Bush look like dopey Boy Scouts.

In our view: ‘Race to the Trough’?, Columbian.com
Most local school districts reluctantly agree to go along to get along for federal revenue.
Race To The Trough, academia.org
Believe it or not, the federal government is giving Race to the Top education grants to school districts more notable for the voting blocs they represent than the scores that they post.
Race to the Trough, Independent Women's Forum
It is worth pondering whether RTT [Race to the Top] applicants were really just engaged in a "race to the trough" rather than a race to the top. There may have been widespread efforts to change state policies in response to RTT's requirements, but it is hard to assess whether those changes represent genuine commitments from state leaders or simple legislative gamesmanship to better position states to receive federal money.
Race to the Top school reforms look more like frantic scramble for funds
The Student Loan Debt Bubble and College Education Scam
Bill Gates and the Charter School Movement

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