Delaware and Tennessee were evidently the big winners in the Race to the Top dough. Delaware, which was ranked No. 1 on the competition’s 500-point grading scale, will win about $100 million, while Tennessee, which came in second, will get something like $500 million. That’s cool for them. But I read their plans. I studied the language. They talk about:
Expectations, accountability, student achievement, test results, teacher evaluation, teacher quality, academic standards, standardized testing, labor and management and consensus and shared decision making…
Then I wondered…
Wasn’t Race to the Top money awarded to encourage school reform? Real Innovation? A billion dollars worth of fresh thinking? Transformation? Transcendent change?
Isn’t it true that if you keep doing the same things over and over again… even if you call it something new… you’ll get the same results?
Tennessee’s Education commissioner, Timothy Webb said: “We believe that if you take all of the technology out of the classroom, … but you leave the highly effective teacher interacting with students, the students will grow. All those other things are great to have, but we know without a shadow of a doubt that we have to invest in great teachers.”
I get his point and they are not proposing to remove technology from their classrooms ( at least, I don’t think)… but the premise here is that teachers alone are enough to create extraordinary schools. We know you can’t have extraordinary schools without them. But what about a “highly effective teacher interacting with students” and using the tools that our students will actually need when they finally escape the gravitational pull of a K-12 public education system and go into the world to invent a new future?
Arne Duncan, our Secretary of Education said when awarding Tennessee and Delaware the RTTT prize money: “We now have two states that will blaze the path for the future of education reform.” And I hope they do.
But if you are going to”blaze” a new path you have to first get off of the old path.
For less than the $500 million dollars that President Obama invests in racing to the top in Tennessee… there are schools that will be blazing!