Kevin at Exceptional Delaware has already done a review of the 76 page report released today…. It is the official US Department of Education’s own assessment of its own program:  Race To The Top.

One should expect a glowing endorsement.  But even though that would be the normal expectation, that  is not what was gotten… Of course, omissions were there as well.

Let’s begin with the total Race To The Top number..   $4.3 billion….

That stretched out is $4,300,000,000 or roughly 1% of the USA’s non military discretionary budget for one year.

Of that, Delaware got $119,000,000 of that wicked amount of money or in percent….. 2.7% . What did we get?

Delaware got the largest percentage of new students entering college…

RTTT College

Graph courtesy of US Dept of Ed.

Delaware also got an increase in AP scores….

AP Scores

Graph courtesy of US Dept of Ed.

“Delaware, Massachusetts, and Tennessee also get shout-outs for relying on teams of teachers and administrators to provide ongoing feedback. Delaware teachers and state leaders allegedly teamed up to create “rigorous and comparable” measures of growth in non-tested subjects…”

Isn’t this a lie?  We know that some task forces were created but we also know they were handpicked so only those who previously registered support of Common Core (long before its details were made public) were allowed to be on those panels and even then, their recommendations were completely ignored.  If anyone can prove this is not so, please respond in the comments below.

Whether inclusive or exclusive of RTTT funding, independent sources outside the US Dept of Education has reported that spending per child increased in our state by $475 during the RTTT window…. This is in comparison to 4 other states which had not brought per student spending even up to pre-recession levels.  Of those RTTT state increasing, Delaware was at the top.

Funding increase

Courtesy of CBPP

But the report leaves out, or only touches on briefly, several controversial issues where states stumbled or backtracked. That’s especially true with respect to teacher evaluations and policies linked to the Common Core State Standards, especially assessments.

The report seemed to focus less on measurable improvement and more on the new relationships the grants have helped to create between teachers, administrators, and others, and how the grants have refined and enhanced their energy.  Translated into corporate speak that is the equivalent of a CEO requesting down the pipeline if we had achieved his goals for the quarter, only to receive the answer that  “no we haven’t but  we have good news!  Nadine in insurance is dating Jonathan in Finance, which means they are talking to each other a lot,” and expecting that to assuage the expected bosses ire.

Essentially we spent $4.3 billion just to create more urgency and more cooperation…

Today, Arne Duncun admitted as much in his speech on Race To The Top… “My administration, recognizing the urgency of change for today’s students, pushed a lot, fast. We haven’t gotten everything right, and we’ve seen unintended consequences that have posed challenges for educators and students.” 

BUT WHAT WERE THOSE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES AND HOW SERIOUSLY HAVE THEY DAMAGED AMERICAN EDUCATION?

All of the Race to the Top states struggled with  teacher evaluations that took into account student outcomes. Many experienced serious political blowback to the standards, in some cases causing major consequences for state leaders. Plus, indicators of student achievement in the report don’t paint a uniformly glowing portrait. Duncan himself acknowledged in his remarks that declining scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress aren’t encouraging…..

Here is how that $4.3 Billion was divvied up. (all graphs can be clicked on to enlarge)…

RTTT Funds

Courtesy of Ed Week.

Shifting to new tests to measure students’ grasp of the common core has been difficult. That huge issue is ignored in this report…  Instead  highlights of cooperation between teachers in different states are expounded.  It is like praising the recruitment and training of little boys to fight Russian tanks while ignoring the total collapse of Berlin and the Third Reich.  The newest NAEP results represent Berlin in that scenario.

“The Education Department sunk $360 million into two testing consortia, funded by a second RTTT grant. But four of the states that received the grants the report focuses on (Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and Tennessee) decided to ditch the PARCC exam for either 2014-15 or 2015-16, while Massachusetts is still undecided about whether to officially adopted PARCC as its state exam. New York has no plans to use that test and  it’s no longer listed as a consortium’s member on PARCC’s website. North Carolina, meanwhile, is still a member of Smarter Balanced, but has so far held off on using the exam.” EdWeek

Today three Race to the Top states—New York, North Carolina, and Tennessee—are formally reviewing the standards as required by their General Assemblies.  Florida and Georgia also made changes to their common core, (Plus a large number of non-RTTT states have ditched or drastically modified Common Core from its original perception.)  No mention in the report, of course.

Unmentioned as well, was the damage RTTT did to top state chiefs… The exalted “chiefs for change” got changed out… It might have gotten hottest for former Tennessee chief Kevin Huffman, who left his post nearly a year ago. But it also made life difficult for John Barge, who is no longer Georgia’s chief.  Delaware’s Mark Murphy mysteriously resigned in the middle of a gigantic all-encompassing state-wide controversy over the right of parents to opt out and not have their schools punished by doing so, and Rhode Island’s former head, Debbie Gist, has downshifted to being in charge of a single district of Tulsa’s school system. Only two Race to the Top states (Massachusetts and North Carolina) and the District of Columbia have the same chief as they did when the program began, by all accounts, a failure…..

The report almost ignores the turmoil surrounding tying teachers performances to the test.  Instead as mentioned above, it applauds areas of cooperation and ongoing feedback, including Delaware’s infamous TELL survey…  Imagine if that was the only true accomplishment of $4.3 billion and Common Core?

Three cheers for RTTT!  We got  teachers to take a survey on their phones…

It’s worth stressing outside this report that it was evaluations  which was perhaps the toughest hurdle many states have faced both internally and with the Education Department. Almost all have argued that tying student test scores to teacher evaluations at the same time that states were shifting to new standards and assessments was misguided. The Department has recently acknowledged this through giving its waivers postponing the implementation of the Accountability piece 2,3,4 years into the future.

Most  astute people can deduce that by having the US Department of Education ignore the problems of Common Core and Race To The Top in its analogy of how their pet project was doing, it becomes obvious by its omission  that in achieving its aims, this program is not working.  This proves once again that you can’t throw money and snap your fingers and make problems go away…

It takes trained people.  And forcing them through constant irrational change-ups to move out of education into other fields, …is something that is not good for America’ s education, …… period.

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