Posted by guest blogger Sean Cavanagh
Reaction rolls in from across the country on yesterday’s announcement that nine states, plus the District of Columbia, won Race to the Top Fund awards. Much of the discussion focuses on why some states that weren’t on many prognosticators’ radar—such as Hawaii—made the final cut, while other states thought to be favorites, like Colorado and Louisiana, were left out.
Over at the Fordham Institute, Mike Petrilli is particularly tough on the administration’s choices, calling it a “disastrous outcome.” He rips the choices of Hawaii and Maryland and the denial of grants to Colorado and Louisiana. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan could have waded in and selected those two losing states, even if they weren’t chosen during the review process, he says. Of course, as Petrilli acknowledges, that sort of maneuver likely would have brought serious political blowback.
Neal McCluskey, of the Cato Institute, also didn’t like the picks, saying too many of the winning states have taken the wrong steps in education in recent years. He observes that Hawaii won, despite drawing widespread criticism for its school furloughs (Duncan was one of the critics.) Maryland’s charter school laws are too restrictive to justify its selection, McCluskey says, and he’s no fan of Massachusetts signing on to the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
As for the states, New Jersey officials are coping with questions about whether the state may have doomed its chances to take up to $400 million by botching an application question, the Star-Ledger reports.
In Pennsylvania, Gov. Ed Rendell was disappointed and speculates that his state could have improved its chances by having a better alternative certification option for teachers and stronger backing from teachers’ unions. In one near-miss states, Arizona, a leading Republican lawmaker argues that it wasn’t a total loss: legislators crafted some important changes in teacher policy as they moved to strengthen their proposal, he tells the Arizona Republic.
And for an altogether different, and creative take on the results, check out the Hechinger Report’s analysis of the “top buzzwords” in the winning applications. The winning words included included “rigor,” “standards,” “assessment,” “accountability,” “online,” and “e-learning,” among others.
UPDATE: More drama from New Jersey on the state’s apparent application goof. Republican Gov. Chris Christie blasts the Obama administration, which he says could easily have asked the state to fix its proposal: ""Does anybody in Washington, D.C., have a lick of common sense?” he asks. But the state’s assembly speaker, a Democrat, blames Christie and says she’ll arrange hearings on what went awry.