The Race to the Top?
Last month the Brookings Institution published a white paper discussing policy interventions most likely to be successful as the Obama Administration prepares to invest $4 billion in education reform with its “Race to the Top” initiative. Titled “Don’t Forget Curriculum,” the white paper makes a compelling case for curriculum investments, rather than governance investments. Some policy levers discussed:
- Charter schools. The only quality studies showing significant positive effects are for popular, oversubscribed charter schools operating in large urban school districts (of which we have so many in West Virginia).
- Reconstituting the teacher workforce. Studies demonstrate that teachers affect student outcomes, but how do we recruit, reward and retain the best teachers? That’s not so easy, suggests the white paper.
- Early childhood programs. Studies of two expensive early childhood programs implemented in the 1960s and 1970s found significant long-term effects, but later studies of other programs are less favorable.
- Content standards. “The lack of evidence that better content standards enhance student achievement is remarkable given the level of investment in this policy and high hopes attached to it.” Enough said?
- Curriculum. While recognizing the challenge of evaluating the differential impact of curricula, the white paper points out that study after study has found significant effects in a wide variety of contexts.
After reading the Race to the Top guidelines and this white paper, I am confused. Surely we’re not preparing to spend $4 billion to promote questionable educational policies.