It’s official – California’s a loser. But before we lament missing out on the first round of Race to the Top funds, we should remember the kind of race we were running in the first place.
This $4.35 billion Federal initiative to turn around the nation’s lowest-performing schools springs from the notion that competition invariably fosters improved school performance. From staging a battle between states for scarce dollars to lowering barriers to charter schools, the program’s only innovation seems to be its prideful insertion of an oversimplified market model into the failed public education equation.
For the students of color served by those lowest-performing schools, a win would have been meaningless. Race to the Top fails to challenge the assumptions that have driven education policy for the last eight years – that teaching is testing, that the arts are peripheral, and that parent engagement is inessential.
We can’t send new money after bad ideas and hope real improvements materialize. With the reauthorization process of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) beginning this year, we have the chance to reshape the principles behind public education. Californians must make it clear to Congress that superficial policy change is not change at all.