Race To The Top
Posted by Shawn Strader on Aug 16, 2010 - 12:41 PM
I do not mean for this writing to provide a summary, synopsis, or full blown analysis of our nations most recent plan to stimulate the effectiveness of our education system, Race To The Top (RTTT). Rather I will offer some thoughts and concerns in hopes to stimulate the thoughts of readers in regards to RTTT, and provoke independent research and analysis of the effort. For an accurate description of RTTT, visit the US Department of Education website here
In a nutshell, RTTT is the United States' most recent federal program to stimulate teachers, schools, and mainly statewide education officials and governors into practicing more effective teaching standards by offering monetary awards for those states who put forth the most promising, and appealing proposals to improve education in their state. The point of the program, put forth by U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is not solely to award states with more money for their school budgets, but rather to inspire states and educators to practice more effective techniques, and venture into fresh ways of educating students that will likely lead to higher success rates in schools nationwide.
I've read up quite a bit on RTTT, and have spent some time looking over Delaware's Application for Initial Funding. (Delaware was one of two winning states in the first phase of RTTT, gaining an award of 100 million dollars. The other winner was Tennessee, who won 400 million dollars I believe.) I'm pleased to say that from the things I have read, RTTT seems to be effective in encouraging at least some states to revamp their education in ways that they feel will ensure a better education for students in multiple ways.
There are efforts to reach out and make education a higher priority for lower income and disadvantaged students. There is an active dialogue concerning re-creating education to better accommodate students wishing to go into successful careers, or into college. A lot of great desire and motivation is coming out from the woodwork of participating states in RTTT.
So far, I have only really dived into Delaware's application, and what is a bummer, is that there isn't a lot of discussion on different ways to analyze success, meaning standardized testing seemingly will still be used as a form of evaluating students. Also, what seems to be in Delaware's agenda, is to improve their STEM program's effectiveness (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). To improve STEM success rates, more submersion in the subjects will take place in conjunction with teaching methods that seem more likely to help students learn more of the subject matter being taught. One area Delaware plans to put focus on to improve success is using modern technology, like the video, to stimulate students, and keep them interested in what is being taught, and to help students retain information. Also, participation in the real world, outside of the school, activities relative to the lessons at hand will become a more sought after aspect of Delaware's effort to improve STEM's effectiveness.
Delaware's application is 235 pages, and I have only read a small fraction of it, but some things seem pretty good about their intentions, like the eager motivation to improve statewide education. But what seems to mostly be going on with Delaware's application, and intentions, is to add more rigorous teaching to their curricula, and focus on ways to better teach their students what to think, and then evaluate their progress through standardized testing.
So far, to me, RTTT seems like our current education methods on steroids. The leading intention is to make our current model of education more effective. So the discussion of re-creating education seems to translate to, "Let's make our current model work better." What comes of RTTT on a national level will not really become clear until the program ends, and the awards from phase 2 are disbursed to the winners. What seems apparent, however, is that RTTT does not seem to be instigating a re-creation of education in the way IDEA, and other like-minded organizations, are calling for.
RTTT, I'm sure, will in some states provide for higher success rates according to our current measures, but I don't think that RTTT will transcend education into the next stage of it's evolution. Meaning IDEA, and other organizations still have their work cut out for them. But what is good, is that there is intent to re-sculpt education, even if currently only in small ways. That alone provides greater clout for those organizations trying to make their voices heard in regards to catering to the individual, and sculpting public and private education into an institution that teaches students how
to think, as opposed to what
Keep yours ears tuned into to the progress of RTTT. I will likely write again on the topic as it evolves. If you have thoughts, concerns, remarks, or ideas regarding RTTT, please don't be shy to leave comments, and get a nice conversation going on below this blog. I will participate, as I'm sure will other readers.
As always, thanks for reading.