Is the Race to the Top A Race to the Bottom?
Race to the Top funding has helped create some success stories in Delaware's public school system. But this race has also presented its share of hurdles, including a morale problem among the state's teachers. Now the one-time cash infusion is running out.
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One of the requirements of the Race helped activate the stickiest of wickets—a new component of an assessment that ties teachers’ performance evaluations to student achievement, namely how the students improve on a statewide assessment from the beginning of a school year to the end.
Jenner says a less-than-smooth implementation of that new component during the 2012-13 school year didn’t help already overburdened teachers. She says Race to the Top has added stress and helped create a widespread morale problem among the state’s educators.
How much of a factor could that play in the ultimate success or failure of Race to the Top?
“Some people will look upon this as a failure if student test scores don’t improve to a certain degree, or if a certain number of teachers aren’t fired, or if we don’t reduce the number of struggling schools,” Jenner says. “Speaking for our members, I think overall, they’re not going to see that Race to the Top has been a truly positive experience for them. It’s been very challenging for them.
“They’re very skeptical about the overall success of Race to the Top, from their own personal experience.”
The Race is On
In February 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The act provided $4.35 billion for Race to the Top—a competitive education grant intended to assist public school districts and charter schools in implementing statewide education reforms.
fter an involved and intense application process in which the state and its public school districts drew up strategic plans for how they would use the money, Delaware in July 2010 began receiving its $119,122,128 share. Half of the money was distributed to individual districts, in part according to the percentage of low-income students enrolled in each district, and half went to the state Department of Education.
The state created a very ambitious set of goals as it developed its application, which mentions “world class results” and notes that the state “intends to lead the nation in student performance.”