I’m catching up after two weeks in Hawaii. Although I had my computer with me, I stayed down in the alpha zone and intentionally avoided the blogosphere and dogging education policy. My youngest son, who has been teaching on the Big Island for two years now, returned to school for four days of professional development last week, and another son who teaches back here in Massachusetts was traveling with us so some discussion of education issues was not entirely avoidable. In any event much has happened in the last few weeks.
The most significant event by far was the announcement on July 24th of the draft guidelines for the application for the s0-called “Race to the Top” funds (see Education Department Announces “Race to the Top” Guidelines below). Many members of Congress have expressed concern that our new secretary of education has unprecedented control over the distribution of over $4 billion to promote a reform agenda that was essentially developed off line. The announcement for public comment was entered into the Federal Register (35 pages) and offered in a more readable executive summary on the Department of Education’s Race to the Top website. Arne Duncan has characterized this as Education Reform’s Moon Shot in an op ed piece in the Washington Post. He indicates that the program, “… marks a new federal partnership in education reform with states, districts and unions to accelerate change and boost achievement.” This is all well and good, but at least in my mind there is a cautionary note. While the Secretary and the President speak frequently of collaboration and admittedly this is a breath of fresh air to the education community, they are not unwilling to use the velvet hammer in this “competition” for funds which is not without pre-conditions. Read more