April 7, 2010

Hypocrisy in "Race to Top" Fallout

     I must admit...I laughed out loud after reading the recent New York Times article - "States Skeptical about 'Race to Top' School Aid Contest." It wasn't a "funny" laugh, but more of a "you've got to be kidding" laugh.
     The article describes the anger, frustration, and "skepticism" of governors from several states that were were not awarded "Race to the Top" funding (only two states received awards - Delaware and Tennessee) over the award selection process. These governors expressed concern that the 500-point rubric used to evaluate each state's application did not account for the effort or progress each state made toward reforming their education systems toward meeting "Race to the Top" goals, even if they came up a little "short" in garnering full support within their respective states. The ability of Delaware to win support for "Race to the Top" from its 38 school districts when compared with the 1500 school districts in California is held up as an example of this inequity, and illustrates how states should not be evaluated in the standard manner. California's undersecretary of education, Kathy Gaither, in describing the new laws California enacted toward forwarding education reform in its effort to win "Race to the Top" funding is quoted as saying, "There was just no room in the application or the scoring rubric for them."  The article concludes with Governor Bill Ritter Jr. of Colorado quoted saying, "So even as I believe that school reform is important for our country, it’s also important that people in Washington understand that one size doesn’t fit all."
     Does any of this sound familiar? I find it appalling, and bordering on hypocritical, that these are the same governors and state agencies requiring school districts across their states to measure their students' achievement using a one-size-fits-all standardized testing system that focuses solely on outcomes and not what truly was "achieved." It is difficult to understand how any educator or administrator can rationalize the validity of standardized tests as an accurate measure of individual student achievement when the "individual" is removed from the equation.
     My  hope is that "Race to the Top" was all just an elaborate (and expensive) ruse staged by the Department of Education to illustrate the fundamentally flawed nature of standardized testing, and that it now will turn to the governors who applied for  funding, particularly those who are decrying the inequity of the selection process, and say, "How does it feel to have your achievement measured in a standardized manner? If you believe that evaluation should take into consideration individual differences and progress toward a goal, then you should do the same for the students in your state and immediately halt standardized student testing." 
     Now THAT would be funny!

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