President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will deliver major speeches this week on their $4.35 billion Race to the Top school reform program, pushing back against complaints that it promotes unproven methods and ignores long-standing inequities in public education.
Speaking at the National Press Club on Tuesday, Duncan is expected to name a list of state finalists for the controversial grant program’s second round of funding and to explain why Race to the Top — the crown jewel of the administration’s education agenda — must continue. And on Thursday, Obama will talk about education at the annual gathering of the National Urban League, one of seven civil rights organizations that blasted Race to the Top in a report made public Monday.
The highly competitive initiatives “distribute resources by competition in the midst of a severe recession,” effectively reducing standard, formula-based federal education funding, according to the report. “Such an approach reinstates the antiquated and highly politicized frame for distributing federal support to states that civil rights organizations fought to remove in 1965.”
According to his prepared remarks, Duncan will argue that highly competitive grants such as Race to the Top have demonstrated that, in difficult budget times, nothing produces change as quickly as the opportunity to get more federal funding.
“Let’s not get sidetracked in a false choice between competitive and formula funding — because we need both,” Duncan will say, addressing criticism that Race to the Top comes at the expense of federal allocations for schools. “Even with increases in competitive funds under our proposed 2011 budget, 80 percent of our K-12 programs are formula programs. We want to recognize and reward high-achieving and high-growth schools — offering them carrots and incentives that we know drive reform and progress.”
As I have noted again and again, neither Duncan nor Obama are interested in hearing varying viewpoints on education policy.
They think the solutions entail more testing, teacher pay and evaluations tied to testing, firing teachers and principals, closing schools, and promoting charters.
That's all they want to hear. If you have an alternative view, as Diane Ravitch has or the members of the civil rights groups who released a critical report on RttT and the Obama ed policies yesterday have, they don't want to hear it.
They are feeling political pressure these days, so both Obama and Duncan will be more political about this stuff than they have in the past.
43% approval ratings will do that to a president.
But they still don't give a shit what anybody else thinks. The only answers they want to hear about education are more testing, teacher pay and evaluations tied to testing, firing teachers and principals, closing schools, and promoting charters.
That's what we're getting with RttT and that's what we will get when they do Obama's No Child Left Behind Jr. re-authorization after the November midterms.
Remember when Obama said he would take the punitive parts of NCLB out of education policy.
What a joke - he has quintupled them and is destroying public education in the process.