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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The U.S. DOE’s report on Delaware’s third year of the Race will not be released until early this year. In the meantime, the Delaware DOE submitted its most recent report to the feds in October, but would not share it with Delaware Today because, a DOE spokeswoman says, it is not considered a public document as it is a draft being worked on by the state and feds.
Murphy concedes that Delaware is far from perfect. He notes that the percentage of Delaware students enrolling in college has trended downward during the past five years. He also says the state’s efforts to turn around 10 of its worst performing schools—what it calls Partnership Zone schools—is failing overall.
“There are some schools where we’ve seen really significant gains, and that’s wonderful,” Murphy says. “Some schools are going backward and others are making incremental progress. So when you ask the fundamental question of when you put $1 million or hundreds of thousands of dollars into a school and you don’t see significant gains for kids, then that’s a problem that we’ve got to tackle in a new and different way.”
If you look at key statistics, there has been some improvement in some areas, but there are plenty of flat results and even backward movement in others as the Race has progressed.
For example, the state’s high school dropout rate, according to the state DOE, was at 3.9 percent during the 2009-10 school year—the year Race to the Top was announced. The dropout rate dipped to 3.7 percent the following year, but returned to 3.9 percent for 2011-12. Rates from last school year were not available at press time.
A look at the change in the state’s high school graduation rates yields similar results. The graduation rate for 2009-10 was 86.7 percent, which dropped to 78.5 percent the next year, then reached 79.6 percent the year after that.
When the most recent results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading and math tests were released in November, a Delaware DOE press release highlighted the fact that Delaware students made gains in fourth-grade math and reading, as well as eighth-grade math.