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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Critics say there’s been little change, that the Race is a flop. They point to national and state test scores that remain largely flat—the same with graduation rates and dropout rates. They will remind you that Delaware ranks among the top states in the country for per-student spending—Delaware Department of Education puts the figure at $12,421—but remains near the middle in student performance.
Others say Race to the Top has been driving a new set of controversial curriculum standards—the Common Core—that will lead to yet another new statewide student test, the third in five years. They are also wary of how the state will share and use information that is being collected about students—from test scores to their discipline records to God knows what.
While Race to the Top can be the most convoluted of topics, at least one thing about it is very clear—the spin from all sides is passionate and never-ending.
Race to the Flop?
Nearly four years after the state and its public school districts started drawing on Race to the Top funds, we ask whether Delaware’s Race has succeeded or failed.
But when can it fairly and reasonably be determined whether the program was a success in Delaware? And who is in a credible position to make such a statement? What measurements should be used? Did the Race create the kind of widespread reform and innovation that it intended to inspire? Did it move education forward or throw a monkey wrench into already occurring reform?
If you ask the leader of the state teachers union about Race to the Top, the answer is far from positive.
Frederika Jenner, president of the Delaware State Education Association—the union that represents 8,000 public school teachers in the state and about 12,000 employees total—says Race to the Top has added too much to teachers’ plates.