Arne Duncan Does Not Regret Race To The Top or Common Core

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan just wrote a new memoir entitled How Schools Work: An Inside Account of Failure and Success From One of the Nation’s Longest Serving Secretaries of Education. In it, he discusses the Race To The Top program that contributed to foisting Common  Core onto the states. 

He has no regrets.

Education Week provided a highlight:

Duncan wrote that he loses sleep over some of the things that happened during his tenure in Washington, but not Race to the Top, or at least not anymore.

Race to the Top, which was created through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, rewarded 12 states with for adopting the common core standards, teacher evaluation through test scores, dramatic school turnarounds, and more.  

Duncan said the program “changed the education landscape in America. … Since Race to the Top, 46 states and the Washington, D.C., [school system].. have either adopted common core or developed their own high standards.” 

It’s true that the common core is still on the books in more than 30 states and the District of Columbia. And plenty of states have kept teacher evaluations through student outcomes—although six states have ditched them since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which prohibited the federal government from monkeying with teacher performance reviews.

Duncan writes that he tried to stay out of the political fray when it came to the common core standards. But the secretary—and especially Obama, in his re-election campaign—took credit for the widespread adoption of the common core. That’s part of the reason the standards ended up facing such widespread opposition

I am still waiting to see some tangible, documented positive results demonstrating the effectiveness of Common Core. I’ve heard talking points and warm fuzzies from teachers who like it, but there has not been any data that has demonstrated that this widespread, top-down reform has made a positive difference.  I have seen stagnant NAEP scores and a widening achievement gap though.

As far as Duncan trying to stay out of the fray I think there are some white suburban moms who feel differently.

Read other highlights here.

Federalized Dataless Education Reform Impacting Kindergarten

Education Week last week ran an article entitled “Kindergarten Assessments Begin to Shape Instruction.” Here’s an excerpt:

But in recent years, the school has tried to shift instruction in a way that they say works better for young children. And they credit the use of a comprehensive method of evaluating kindergarten students, called kindergarten entry assessment, as one of the tools that allowed them to do that.

Kindergarten entry assessments, which some states call “kindergarten readiness assessments” or “kindergarten entry inventories,” are intended to guide a teacher’s instructional practice. They may include direct assessment of children’s skills, teacher observations, or both. They’re intended to give teachers a well-rounded picture of the whole child, including his or her academic, social, and physical development.

While these assessments are becoming more widespread—boosted by federal support during the Obama administration—they’re offering mixed results for teachers and for school districts.

Supporters say they’re useful in supporting all elements of a child’s development during their important early school days.

Others have criticized the assessments as an additional burden that doesn’t let teachers know what they should do with all the data they’re expected to collect. And the assessments also raise concerns for some that they’ll be used for high-stakes purposes, like evaluating teachers or sorting children into educational tracks.

These were pushed through Race to the Top as the article notes:

Kindergarten entry assessments or inventories are not new, but they received a big push through the federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grants, which required applicants to outline a plan of how they were going to use these assessments to promote school readiness. The assessments were required to measure “language and literacy, cognition and general knowledge, approaches to learning, physical well-being and motor development, and social-emotional development,” the grant said.

The U.S. Department of Education also had a different grant program just to support state creation of kindergarten-entry assessments.

Researchers have raised questions about whether the assessments meet one goal of providing an academic boost for students. In 2016, the Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands wrote a report saying that using kindergarten entry assessments did not produce statistically significant improvements on students’ early reading or math skills.

But the students in that study would have started school well before the Education Department started giving money to states to create or improve their entry assessments.

Have to love the spin here. If the study authors looked at students using kindergarten entry assessments does it really matter whether there were federal dollars? Education Week also makes the assumption that the assessments were poor before the RTTT dollars. Evidence of that?

No, what we see here is another education reform pushed onto states through federal money that had absolutely no basis in evidence.

But sure, let’s continue to assess kindergartners because that’s what all the trendy educrats are doing.

Husted Is Anti-Common Core? Why Did He Support Race to the Top?

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted

I wanted to follow-up on the piece I wrote yesterday about the Ohio Republican Gubernatorial primary because I have some additional information.

Congressman Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) accused Secretary of State Jon Husted of supporting Common Core, an accusation which was denied by his campaign. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that his campaign said, “Jon Husted opposes Common Core and as House Speaker, created the first statewide school choice scholarship to help every child have a chance at a quality education.”

Ohio Conservatives for Change (a pro-Husted PAC) called the charge “baseless.” How do they know?

Well, they quoted the same statement from the Husted campaign I cited above.

Words. Rhetoric. How does Husted oppose Common Core? When it comes to fighting Common Core those of us on the front lines are skeptical for a good reason because we’ve repeatedly betrayed.

What has he done? I can tell you something that is on his record.

He supported Race to the Top, the federal grant program that helped to push Common Core onto states.

Here’s the letter he sent in 2009 to Governor Ted Strickland, Ohio Senate President Bill Harris, and Ohio House Speaker Armond Budish as a State Senator. Husted served on the Ohio Senate Education Committee.

Secretary Husted has some explaining to do. Not only did he support Race to the Top he committed to working on two pieces of legislation to help Ohio become eligible to receive the grant. He had to know this grant required the adoption of “college and career-ready standards” of which Common Core was the only game in town to help states receive enough points to qualify.

So sorry if his claim to opposing Common Core (which has come from his campaign apparatus, not the candidate himself) rings hollow.

Zais Appointed as Deputy Secretary of Education

Photo credit: Milken Family Foundation

Former South Carolina Superintendent of Education Mick Zais was appointed by President Donald Trump as Deputy Secretary of Education.

The White House announcement reads:

Mitchell Zais of South Carolina to be Deputy Secretary of Education.  Most recently, Mr. Zais served as South Carolina’s elected State Superintendent of Education.  During his term in office, the department’s budget was reduced while on-time high school graduation rates increased every year to an all-time high.  The number of public charter schools increased 78 percent, the number of public charter school students increased 155 percent, and the number of students taking online courses grew 130 percent.  Prior to that, he served 10 years as president of Newberry College in South Carolina.  The College was recognized for the first time by U.S. News as one of “America’s Best Colleges.”  He served 31 years as an infantry soldier in the U.S. Army.  He retired as a Brigadier General.  Mr. Zais holds a B.S. in engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, an M.A. degree in military history, plus M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in organizational behavior and social psychology from the University of Washington.  He served as South Carolina Commissioner of Higher Education and is a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto, the states’ highest civilian award.

Zais campaigned against Common Core when he was first elected. A year into his term he appeared to make some headway rejecting one-time federal education dollars including Race to the Top funds.

“We don’t have a shortage of dollars in South Carolina’s schools, we have a shortage of accountability, competition, and incentives,” Zais said to Ben Velderman in an interview.

“If South Carolina had accepted its slice of the Race to the Top pie, it would equal $2.22 per student per year, for four years,” Zais said. “The idea that $2.22 would make a big difference is just nonsense. That’s not even a rounding error.”

He said he wanted to fight against the “education industrial complex.”

That sounds good. Unfortunately, in 2014 the South Carolina Legislature passed a rebrand of Common Core instead of a repeal that was signed by then Governor Nikki Haley.

The rewrite process was sketchy, and Zais oversaw a rebranding of the Common Core even though he claimed that was not going to happen.

I’ve not seen one independent analysis of South Carolina’s standards showing they are significantly different than the Common Core State Standards.

He was also an advocate of education as workforce development and didn’t have a problem accepting a federal workforce development grant.

He did, however, reject the Next Generation Science Standards so I’ll give him that.

He may be better than some of President Trump’s other picks for the Department of Education, but we can’t call him an anti-Common Core warrior. His rhetoric doesn’t match his record.

Beware of Experts in Education Policy

Frederick Hess, resident scholar and director of education policies at American Enterprise Institute, warned that we should beware of experts, especially those in education policy, in AEI’s latest In 60 Seconds video.

Watch below:

Hess is right.

Hess mentioned education policy experts brought us No Child Left Behind and School Improvement Grants that did more harm than good. Had he had more time, based on Hess’ writings, I’m sure Race to the Top and Common Core would make his list as well.

Education policy experts often think top-down when the best solutions typically come from the local level. Top-down “experts” will never know local schools as well as parents, teachers, and administrators involved in those schools and school districts do.

I have yet to see a top-down idea work. I wouldn’t put much stock into education policy “experts” unless they are pushing local control and local solutions for problems in public education.

Common Core Spending Will Likely Not Bear Any Fruit


WSKG, an NPR affiliate station, aired an interview with Mindy Kornhaber from Penn State University who was one of the authors of a new study that tracked Common Core spending.

In a nutshell, all of this spending likely won’t impact student achievement.

Some of the interview highlights:

On the Race to the Top competition:

Kornhaber: Within the Race to the Top guidelines, there were five criteria and two of those relate directly to the Common Core. They called for [the use of] common standards and the use of common assessments for which only the Common Core state standards really were available.

On how the money was spent:

Kornhaber: Well, different states used it to get their systems aligned to the Common Core. So they used it in part to get data systems that could track how well kids were doing. They used it in New York State specifically to develop curriculum modules. [They used it] to help districts in some states get access to better professional development that would enable teachers to teach to the new standards and things like that.

On why she likens it to the Gold Rush:

Kornhaber: For the Common Core, teachers and districts and states were asked to mine for better student achievement and to do that, they would need a lot of equipment. They’d need new computers, they’d new data systems, they’d need new curriculum materials, etc. But as in the case of the Gold Rush, most people who went mining in search of gold did not come up with gold.

Jaspers: So you’re saying that despite all of this money being spent, it’s not necessarily going to yield better results. That’s, kind of, your read on the situation?

Kornhaber: Yes. And that read comes from the fact that prior reforms that are similar to the Common Core also did not boost achievement.

A couple of things to mention. First we’ve noted that this was going to be a colossal waste of money, and secondly, this demonstrates that money was spent to develop curriculum at the state level as was the case in New York so let’s dispense with the nonsense that Common Core was just about standards.

Carly Fiorina: Common Core = Crony Capitalism

2016-01-27 12.08.17

Carly Fiorina holds a town hall meeting in Oskaloosa, IA.

At a town hall event in Oskaloosa, IA yesterday former Hewlett Packard CEO and Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina was asked about the U.S. Department of Education and she discussed shrinking it’s size and sending that money back to the states and local school districts. She then addressed Common Core and other federal education programs.

“And all these programs, some of them have come out under Republicans too – Common Core, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, they are all bad ideas. Because guess what they are? They are big bureaucratic programs coming out of Washington and, by the way, there are a bunch of interests who helped write those programs.  In the case of Common Core guess who helped write it? Text book companies and the testing companies it’s all crony capitalism folks. It’s alive and well under Republicans and Democrats. We have to take our country back,” Fiorina answered.

This is consistent with what Fiorina has said during the presidential campaign.

In January of last year, Fiorina told Caffeinated Thoughts, “I don’t think Common Core is a good idea.  I don’t support it, by the way, I think the facts are clear, the bigger the Department of Education becomes, the worse our public education becomes.  So there is no connection to spending more money in Washington and a better school system.  In fact, there is every connection between giving parents choice and having real competition and having real accountability in the classroom.

“I also think the argument for Common Core is frequently ‘oh we have to compete with the Chinese.’ I have been doing business in China for decades and I will tell you that yeah the Chinese can take a test, but what they can’t do is innovate.  They are not terribly imaginative.  They’re not entrepreneurial, they don’t innovate, that is why they are stealing our intellectual property.  One of the things we have to maintain about our school systems comes with local control is to teach entrepreneurship, innovation, risk-taking, imagination, these are things that are distinctly American and we can’t lose them,” Fiorina added.

Paul Dupont at The Pulse 2016 points out that Fiorina has used her opposition to Common Core as a wedge issue.  “This effort has included drawing a contrast between herself and other candidates, such as Jeb Bush, whom she has chided for his support of Common Core on more than one occasion.  On education policy, she has also been critical of the “heavy-handed” methods of “federal bureaucracies,” implying she would support a more decentralized, states-oriented approach,” Dupont wrote.

She does have an asterisk by her name however. During her U.S. Senate campaign she expressed support for No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top which has earned her a C+ on the American Principles Project Common Core report card.

Sarah Isgur Flores, Fiorina campaign spokesperson, explained this to me in an email sent last May:

Carly does not support Common Core. As she has said, there is absolutely no evidence that the work of a big, centralized bureaucracy in Washington makes things better. In fact, there’s loads of evidence to the contrary. The Department of Education has been growing in size and budget for 40 years and the quality of our education continues to deteriorate.

Carly has always believed that choice and accountability are necessary to fix our education system. We can do that by having great teachers and by giving these teachers the ability and flexibility to teach the things that our kids need: risk-taking, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

Her support for state-based accountability measures in 2010 was about implementing education reforms that encouraged more accountability and transparency at the state level. Common Core, which wasn’t implemented in California until this past fall, has been a set of standards created in DC and driven by the education-industrial complex seeking to commercialize our students. Frankly, the two aren’t even close to the same thing. Carly favors state driven accountability, which she did in 2010 and she does now. That is emphatically not what common core has been or become.

At the time that Race to the Top was proposed in 2009 and when Carly supported it in 2010, it was a funding program based on real performance metrics and opposed by the teachers’ unions. But like so many other government programs with worthy goals backed by flowery speeches, it hasn’t turned out to be what we were promised. Instead, Race to the Top is just the latest example of the federal bureaucracy caving to the powerful interests in Washington and abandoning its original goals.

If Fiorina was graded again based on what I’ve heard throughout her campaign she may be deserving of a higher grade.

USED Official Admits Federal Curriculum Violation in Bush-Supported Race to the Top

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

The arguments made by establishment proponents of Race to the Top and Common Core, including some presidential candidates continue to implode.  The well-worn chant that these were “state-led,” “voluntary,” “hijacked by the federal government,” and especially that Common Core is “only standards” and “has nothing to do with curriculum” is dissolving into thin air.   That particular claim about curriculum has been absolutely shredded in the admission by former US Department of Education (USED) official, Joanne Weiss in an essay discussing the “lessons learned” from the whole effort to nationalize education standards via Race to the Top (RTTT).  Weiss actually brags that RTTT, a federal government program, produced curriculum:

In addition, new curriculum materials funded through Race to the Top and released in 2014 are already in use in 20 percent of classrooms nationwide. (Emphasis added).

This is a clear violation of three federal laws that prohibit federal involvement in curriculum – The Elementary and Secondary Education Act [ESEA – 20 U.S.C. § 7907(a)], The Department of Education Organization Act [20 U.S.C. § 3403(b)], and the General Education Provisions Act [GEPA – 20 U.S.C. § 1232(a)].  Here is a sample of the language from GEPA, which is quite similar to the other two:

“No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, or personnel of educational institution, school, or school system…”  (Emphasis added).

Weiss’ statement quoted above is a direct admission that USED is violating federal law.  It also completely contradicts statements from presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his now former group The Foundation for Excellence in Education, that Common Core, adoption of which was all but required for cash-starved states to be able to compete for Race to the Top funds, is only a set of standards and has nothing to do with curriculum.  The claim that Bush’s foundation was attempting to debunk here is now shown to be truer than their so-called “fact:”

Claim: “Common Core means federal control of school curriculum, i.e., control by Obama administration left-wing bureaucrats.”

Fact:  Common Core State Standards are not a national mandate or a national curriculum.  States voluntarily chose whether or not to adopt the standards and retain full authority for implementation, preventing the possibility of a federal takeover. State leaders, accountable to their constituents, can withdraw their states from the standards at any time.

This revelation comes on the heels of an excellent article by Jane Robbins of American Principles in Action, quoting the same essay by USED’s Weiss that that federal coercion was present from the beginning with the Race to the Top grant program by requiring alignment to the program:

“…by the governor, the chief state school officer, and the president of the state board of education — by requiring each of them to sign their state’s Race to the Top application. In doing so, they attested that their office fully supported the state’s reform proposal.”

Robbins rightly and clearly explained:

But how to persuade the states they should adopt the Common Core national standards? Benchmarking [for Success] had a suggestion for that too: “As soon as possible, the federal government should offer new funding . . . to help underwrite the cost for states to take the [reforms] described above related to standards and assessment, curriculum, human capital, and accountability.” (Emphasis added).

So the coercion described so cheerily by Weiss was actually part of the plan all along. By pushing particular standards and assessments onto the states through ties to RttT money, USED was able to impose its policy preferences, and those of the private entities that were calling the shots (indeed, Weiss herself had worked with one of those entities before being brought to USED by Secretary Arne Duncan).

As chronicled by Emmett McGroarty also of American Principles in Action, Bush was complementary of Obama’s efforts to use federal money for grants to expand the federal role in education:

I think Secretary Duncan and President Obama deserve credit for putting pressure on states to change, particularly the states that haven’t changed at all. They’re providing carrots and sticks, and I think that’s appropriate.

The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition has documented much of the copious evidence of Jeb Bush’s cooperation with the White House to help spread Common Core like a cancer across the nation   

…and to defend it and help the deceptive rebranding efforts in Florida saying to Secretary Arne Duncan in an email:

“He [Governor Rick Scott]  is fearful of the rebellion. Wants to stop using the term common core but keep the standards. Wants to get out of PARCC.”

…and trying to say while campaigning for Governor Scott that Florida is out of Common Core while at the same time saying that the changes to Common Core were “not substantial:

Bush now says that Race to the Top is a problem of federal overreach, but that kind of rhetoric has only emerged since he started getting serious about running for president and especially since he started plummeting in the polls.  As shown above, in our analysis of the first debate, and chronicled by other writers like Stanly Kurtz of National Review, it is completely hollow and disingenuous. 

The evidence that this strategy is not working is showing up in poll after poll.  As of September 23rd, Bush is behind in both state (including his home state of Florida where his unfavorable ratings are higher than his favorable ones), and national polls to candidates that have strongly and publicly repudiated Common Core and expanded involvement in education:

In addition, the public and Republican primary voters are not fooled by the governor’s new-found love affair with the Tenth Amendment as evidenced by him receiving boos when speaking of Common Core and “high standards” at an event in South Carolina as well as polling data showing significant opposition to national standards not labeled Common Core:

“The latest decline in support for these standards does not arise simply from a politically tainted Common Core ‘brand.’ Among a second group of respondents who answered the same question but without the phrase ‘Common Core,’ support for the use of shared standards across the states slid from 68% in 2014 to 54% in 2015.” (Emphasis added)

Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times also provided evidence of that falsehood in an article titled Jeb Bush’s bond with Barack Obama on education poses 2016 challenge for him in January of this year that described Bush’s support for federal involvement:

“I’m excited … because I think for the first time in my political life, there seems to be more consensus than disagreement across the ideological spectrum about education reform,” Bush said during a 2009 speech at an education forum in Nashville. “I’m very encouraged about Secretary Duncan’s advocacy of challenging the status quo, and I’m excited that Republicans seem to be not wanting to get into a food fight about this but to join forces and to find common ground. . . . This is a huge opportunity.”

…Today, the notion that the federal government was involved stems in part from Obama’s “Race to the Top” grants that encouraged states to lift education standards and innovate…Bush supported competitive grants, though, his staff stressed, he opposed the overall stimulus from which the money came.

Leary’s article also provided video of the now infamous meeting in Miami in 2011 where Bush introduced President Obama and Obama effusively praised Bush’s education reform efforts: (starting at 5:19) 

Obama – “We are also honored to be joined here today by another champion of education reform, somebody who championed reform when he was in office and somebody who is now championing reform as a private citizen, Jeb Bush. We are grateful. We are grateful for him being here.  Aside from being a former governor of this great state, Jeb is best known as being the brother of Marvin Bush. Apparently the rest of the family also did some work back in Washington back in the day.  (Laughter) The truth is that I’ve gotten to know Jeb because his family exemplifies public service and we are so grateful to him for the work he has done on behalf of education.  So, thank you!”

The brazen fashion in which the Obama administration and Common Core’s proponents in both parties, especially Clinton, Bush and Kasich, have promoted Common Core and the lawless and unconstitutional federal structures that have put those standards, tests, and curriculum in place while riding roughshod over parents and elected legislators is breathtaking.  The parents of America want a presidential candidate that will tell the truth; follow the Constitution and the rule of law; and reduce, not expand the federal footprint in education.

An Admission of Federal Manipulation Through Race to the Top


Arne Duncan’s former chief of staff pulls back the curtain on Race to the Top

Joanne Weiss was the director of the Race to the Top program at the U.S. Department of Education and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s chief of staff. She wrote an essay at Stanford Social Innovation Review that is enlightening in that we finally have a USDED official admit the truth about the federal role in foisting Common Core on to the states.

I encourage you to read the whole piece, but I’ll pull a few excerpts of interest.

Weiss acknowledges that budgetary challenges along with offering larger awards induced states to apply.

The competition took place during a time of profound budgetary challenge for state governments, so the large pot of funding that we had to offer was a significant inducement for states to compete.

This process is typically different than how federal grant making has been done before as she explains:

…we decided that winners would have to clear a very high bar, that they would be few in number, and that they would receive large grants. (In most cases, the grants were for hundreds of millions of dollars.) In a more typical federal competition program, a large number of states would each win a share of the available funding. The government, in other words, would spread that money around in a politically astute way. But because our goal was to enable meaningful educational improvement, we adopted an approach that channeled substantial funding to the worthiest applicants.

When you see “worthiest applicants” read those states whose priorities matched ours.

They leveraged the governors.

…we placed governors at the center of the application process. In doing so, we empowered a group of stakeholders who have a highly competitive spirit and invited them to use their political capital to drive change. We drew governors to the competition by offering them a well-funded vehicle for altering the life trajectories of children in their states.

Weiss acknowledges their criteria was too broad.

Our commitment to being systemic in scope and clear about expectations, yet also respectful of differences between states, was a key strength of the initiative. But it exposed points of vulnerability as well. In our push to be comprehensive, for instance, we ended up including more elements in the competition than most state agencies were able to address well. Although the outline of the competition was easy to explain, its final specifications were far from simple: States had to address 19 criteria, many of which included subcriteria. High-stakes policymaking is rife with pressures that bloat regulations. In hindsight, we know that we could have done a better job of formulating leaner, more focused rules.

Weiss touts that states who didn’t win a grant still followed through on their “blueprint.”  Perhaps that had something to do with having to adopt Common Core and join Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or PARCC before they submitted a final application?

In applying for Race to the Top, participating states developed a statewide blueprint for improving education—something that many of them had previously lacked. For many stakeholders, moreover, the process of participating in the creation of their state’s reform plan deepened their commitment to that plan. In fact, even many states that did not win the competition proceeded with the reform efforts that they had laid out in their application.

The plan behind the grant was meant to diminish local control and serve the state agenda which in turn was informed by the federal agenda behind the grant.

The overall goal of the competition was to promote approaches to education reform that would be coherent, systemic, and statewide. Pursuing that goal required officials at the state level to play a lead role in creating and implementing their state’s education agenda. And it required educators at the school and district levels to participate in that process, to support their state’s agenda, and then to implement that agenda faithfully.

Weiss explains further.

To meet that challenge, we required each participating district to execute a binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) with its state. This MOU codified the commitments that the district and the state made to each other. Reviewers judged each district’s depth of commitment by the specific terms and conditions in its MOU and by the number of signatories on that document. (Ideally, the superintendent, the school board president, and the leader of the union or teachers’ association in each district would all sign the MOU.)

….The success of the process varied by state, but over time these MOUs—combined, in some cases, with states’ threats to withhold funding from districts—led to difficult but often productive engagement between state education agencies and local districts.

Tyranny by contract as a friend of mine likes to put it.

Catch this next excerpt as it’s pretty disconcerting.

…we forced alignment among the top three education leaders in each participating state—the governor, the chief state school officer, and the president of the state board of education—by requiring each of them to sign their state’s Race to the Top application. In doing so, they attested that their office fully supported the state’s reform proposal.

They forced alignment?  Indeed the Race to the Top application required signatures from all three officers.

Weiss acknowledged that the program drove education policy change at the state level before any grant was awarded.

One of the most surprising achievements of Race to the Top was its ability to drive significant change before the department awarded a single dollar to applicants. States changed laws related to education policy. They adopted new education standards. They joined national assessment consortia.

She then explained that three design features in the grant program spurred the change.

First they had to get rid of those pesky state laws that stood in the way before they were eligible to compete.

…we imposed an eligibility requirement. A state could not enter the competition if it had laws on the books that prohibited linking the evaluation of teachers and principals to the performance of their students. Several states changed their laws in order to earn the right to compete.

I remember Iowa ramrodding through poorly written charter school legislation just so they could have a seat at the trough.

They then also awarded points based on what states did before submitting their application… Clever right? Get states to work towards these reforms in order to be competitive.  This manipulative tactic also ensured that states not awarded a grant would continue to follow-through on some of these reforms.

…we decided to award points for accomplishments that occurred before a state had submitted its application. In designing the competition, we created two types of criteria for states to address. State Reform Conditions criteria applied to actions that a state had completed before filing its application. Reform Plan criteria, by contrast, pertained to steps that a state would take if it won the competition.

The State Reform Conditions criteria accounted for about half of all points that the competition would award. Our goal was to encourage each state to review its legal infrastructure for education and to rationalize that structure in a way that supported its new education agenda. Some states handled this task well; others simply added patches to their existing laws. To our surprise, meanwhile, many states also changed laws to help meet criteria related to their reform plan. To strengthen their credibility with reviewers, for example, some states updated their statutes regarding teacher and principal evaluation.

Race to the Top created a “treasure trove” of data to mine through.

We couldn’t keep up with the enormous load of data that the competition generated—and we learned that we didn’t have to. The public did it for us. State and local watchdogs kept their leaders honest by reviewing and publicly critiquing applications. Education experts provided analyses of competition data. And researchers will be mining this trove of information for years to come.

What a stunning admission of manipulation and coercion perpetrated by the U.S. Department of Education.  What is lacking in Weiss’ piece is mention of how unpopular this program actually was, and no mention of Congress’ push to ensure that future U.S. Secretaries of Education can ever use a grant program in this way again.

Jeb Bush Discusses Education in Campaign Announcement

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (CC-By-SA 2.0)

On Monday former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced that he was running for President making him the 11th (Donald Trump became the 12th today) Republican to jump into the 2016 race.

Unsurprisingly education was part of his announcement speech.  Here is what he had to say on the topic:

After we reformed education in Florida, low-income student achievement improved here more than in any other state.

We stopped processing kids along as if we didn’t care – because we do care, and you don’t show that by counting out anyone’s child. You give them all a chance.

Here’s what I believe.

When a school is just another dead end, every parent should have the right to send their child to a better school – public, private, or charter.

Every school should have high standards, and the federal government should have nothing to do with setting them.

Nationwide, if I am president, we will take the power of choice away from the unions and bureaucrats and give it back to parents.

We made sure of something else in Florida – that children with developmental challenges got schooling and caring attention, just like every other girl and boy. We didn’t leave them last in line. We put them first in line because they are not a problem. They are a priority. (Emphasis mine)

This is the approach he has been taking ever since he began to consider a run for President.  This isn’t a repudiation of the Common Core.  It’s just stating a talking point everyone can agree with.  Who doesn’t want high standards?  The problem with his statement on Feds setting standards is he still favors federal assessment and accountability mandates.  He didn’t express concern about Race to the Top at the time it was implemented.  Sure he doesn’t like the Feds setting standards, but it is ok to coerce them through the power of the purse and other mandates?