My Opinion of “Race For the Top”

There isn’t any argument that education in America needs to be improved.  Politicians on all sides of the spectrum agree.  The discussion is not about whether it should happen but how it should happen.  Is the Race for the Top the way to go?  I do not think so.  It DEMANDS that states raise the cap on how many charter schools they have.  There are excellent charter schools and there are terrible charter schools.  Just as there are terrible public schools and excellent public schools.  Charter schools were supposed to be educational learning laboratories which were benchmarked for best practices.  To envision them as the sole universal answer to the ills of American education is as foolish as believing that high stakes testing would, by itself, raise America’s achievement level.  All that the testing achieved was to confirm what we already knew – that children of low income families do worse on examinations that children of high income families.  It then rewarded high achieving schools and punished low achieving schools.  What stupidity.

If we wish to improve America’s schools, we need to systemically improve all aspects of America’s schooling.  We need to improve early childhood education and make it available to every student.  We need to level the playing field of school spending so that schools in affluent areas get as much funding as those in the inner cities.  If children do not learn the way teachers teach, then teachers need to teach the way students learn.  We need to have colleges validate high school degrees by not accepting students who are not prepared to enter college and stop accepting and remediating those who are below college admission standards.  We need to have schools of education train teachers with the skills they need and not what the schools of education want to teach.  And politicians need to stop coming up with sound bite solutions to highly complex educational problems.