Racing to the Top, An Overview

David Patterson
David Patterson

With five days left until Race To The Top applications are due, New York educators and lawmakers can’t agree on what to do with charter schools. Gov. David Paterson encourages the expansion of charter schools — among the program’s goals, while teachers unions oppose it. In most cases, charter school staff members are not part of unions. For more, read Beth Fertig’s education coverage.

Part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Race to the Top is a $4.35 billion grant program that rewards states that are making strides in the following areas as defined by the application:

  • enhancing standards and assessments
  • improving the collection and use of data
  • increasing teacher effectiveness and achieving equity in teacher distribution
  • turning around struggling schools

States that apply will be evaluated by peer review and selected using a points-based system. Emphasis in science, technology, engineering and science gets a competitive advantage.  Gov. Paterson has proposed doing away with the charter school cap of 200 to increase New York’s chances of receiving as much as $700 million.

Though National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel commended the program for accelerating education reform, he said the association is “disappointed that the administration continues to focus so heavily on tying students’ test scores to individual teachers. The continuing eligibility requirement that states must not have any barriers to linking data on student achievement or growth to teachers and principals for evaluation purposes misses the mark.”

Gov. Paterson: “Race to the Top provides an unprecedented opportunity to reform our schools and challenge an educational status quo that is failing too many children.”

Michael Mulgrew, United Federation of Teachers president: “Race to the Top guidelines specifically state that charter schools ‘serve student populations that are similar to local district student populations, especially relative to high-need students.’ How can New York move forward with its Race to the Top application until these inequities are addressed?”

New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi
: “It’s not just the quantity of schools, it’s the quality. Chasing good dollars with bad legislation is foolhardy.”

Thomas W. Carroll, president of the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability
: “State leaders have reached a consensus on truly competing for Race to the Top funds. The challenge over the next week is to make sure that the effort to assemble the needed votes doesn’t allow any of these poison pills to slip in — and take down the whole effort.”

(Photo by pylypenko on flickr)

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