A little good news on Race to the Top, lots of bad news.
The good news is that, true to his word, Arne Duncan selected only two states out of forty to win in the first round of the Race to the Top grant competition. That should, one hopes, send the message that he is serious about supporting reform.
The bad news, especially for Maine, is that the selection of Delaware and Tennessee indicates, as a number of observers have observed, that the U.S. Department of Education places a high premium on buy-in by district and union leaders. Both states bragged about the high levels of consensus they developed around the reforms they proposed to enact using RTT dollars.
That means that Maine should probably abandon its efforts at winning an RTT grant right now.
Don’t get me wrong, we need to undertake meaningful reform, as I have said repeatedly.
But if we need to get the establishment forces on board in order to win grant, why bother? There is simply no way the Maine Education Association, the Maine School Management Association or the Maine Principal’s Association will get on board with anything even remotely like what Delaware and Tennessee are either planning to put into place or have put into place already.
Both states use student performance in the evaluation of teachers, schools, and school districts, both states have strong charter school laws, both states give the state broad powers to help turn around persistently failing schools, both states have alternative pathways to teacher certification, both have much stronger and more open data systems than Maine, and so on.
We can’t even get charter schools passed here, and even got complaints from the establishment special interests about the three meaningless RTT bills the Commissioner put forward. (Laughable would be a better word – I read the text of the “innovative schools” bill to a group of school reform advocates in Washington last week and got howls of laughter. Maine is literally a laughing stock on school reform.)
There is simply no way that any RTT application from Maine which has the broad support of the education special interests will do anything meaningful in terms of reform.
Need any evidence of this? Rep Casavant’s charter school amendment to the laughable innovative school bill went down to defeat in the House today – it wasn’t even close.
So the status quo prevails, and if today’s RTT announcement is any indication, will continue to prevail for the foreseeable future.
Time to start looking for real estate in Tennessee and Delaware?