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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But a closer look at the NAEP—known as the “Nation’s Report Card”—results shows that the percentage of students considered proficient or advanced in fourth-grade math was two points lower (42 percent) than in 2011 (the NAEP test is administered every two years). In 2011, 39 percent of students were proficient in eighth-grade math compared to 33 percent on the most recent test. The results are similar in reading. Overall, 42 percent of Delaware students are considered proficient, which ranks the First State 27th in the country. Delaware’s stated goal is that more than half of its students will be proficient or advanced.
Also on the NAEP, the black-white achievement gap numbers remained the same, while the white/Hispanic achievement gap closed by a mere point.
Herdman, of Vision 2015, again calls for patience. He admits to being a glass is half full person.
“We moved in the right direction, but it wasn’t a massive move,” he says. “I’m not going to over-defend the numbers. It’s really for the department to kind of explain exactly where they are in terms of their metrics. I think there has been movement. I wish it was even more aggressive. We could see a massive move in the next two years, but it’s still an aggressive goal.”
How does one gauge the Race’s success or failure in a fair and accurate way? Murphy tends to look at the big picture.
“If we’re grading on a curve, we’re at the top of it,” he says. “If we’re grading against the standard, we’re still at the top, but we may not be hitting all of those standards.”
When asked when we will know whether Race to the Top is a success, Murphy says, “I think we have early indications right now. I think it’s not a when we will know, it’s a continued and constant question. We know that a number of the efforts in the educational community now exist that didn’t exist before.”