December 24, 2009

THE NELSON EFFECT:

'Race to Top' Driving Policy Action Across States (Erik W. Robelen, 12/24/09, Education Week)

Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee earlier this month called on his legislature to hold a special session in January to consider a package of education measures, including a requirement that student-achievement data be used in teacher evaluations, and a proposal he said would strengthen provisions allowing the state to intervene in chronically low-performing schools.

“The whole Race to the Top just provided a focal point for a whole range of things that might have been difficult to do in other times,” Gov. Bredesen, a Democrat, said of the discretionary grants under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The money is intended to encourage states’ efforts to improve education.

In an interview, the governor said the program funded by the 2009 economic-stimulus law offers a unique chance to gain political traction for important policy changes.

“When the planets line up is when you jump for it,” Gov. Bredesen said.

Other states are also taking steps with an eye toward the Race to the Top grants. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, is calling for action in 2010 to allow charter schools to operate in his state for the first time. In Maine, Democratic Gov. John Baldacci is proposing a new set of measures, including allowing student-achievement data to be used in evaluating educators, and letting districts create “innovative” schools that would have substantial autonomy.

Some states have already made policy changes likely to strengthen their applications. Earlier this year, for instance, Illinois and Tennessee raised their charter school caps, Louisiana eliminated its ceiling altogether, and Delaware allowed a moratorium on new charters to lapse. (“State Picture on Charter Caps Still Mixed,” Aug. 12, 2009.)

In October, the California legislature, at the urging of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, eliminated a so-called data firewall seen as prohibiting the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers—a barrier that would have put the state out of the running for the Race to the Top. Legislators were still wrestling with other proposed changes this month.

And in Michigan, lawmakers passed an ambitious school package earlier this month that would establish new state interventions in low-performing schools, help expand the charter sector, and raise the age at which students may drop out of school without parental permission, among other provisions. Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat, has said she will sign the legislation.

“This puts us in a great position for Race to the Top,” said state Rep. Tim Melton, a Democrat who is a key architect of the Michigan plan.


Nothin' wrong with bribing states to help black kids get educated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 24, 2009 10:45 AM
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