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Which Districts Are Getting Race to the Top Buzz?

By Alyson Klein — June 27, 2012 1 min read
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Want to win your office betting pool on the Race to the Top District competition? Well, according to a survey of “education insiders” recently published by Whiteboard Advisors, the smart money is on the Los Angeles Unified School District. You also probably wouldn’t go broke betting on Hillsborough County Schools in Florida.

Other districts with buzz include Austin, Texas; Boston; Charlotte-Mecklenberg, N.C.; Denver; Houston; Nashville, Tenn., and New York City. (Of course, we have no idea if any of these folks will actually apply.)

So what exactly is this survey? Whiteboard Advisors, an education consulting practice, regularly polls 50 to 75 political and policy “insiders” including current and former senior staff from the U.S. Department of Education, Congress, and organizations.

And it sounds like those insiders are less than impressed with the Race to the Top District competition. Fifty-nine percent think it was a bad idea, saying that it circumvents state authority and will be tough to oversee.

Another thing most of those surveyed don’t seem impressed by? GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s education plan. Here’s a sampling of (again, sadly anonymous, but still interesting) comments:
• “Meh. Seems like a rehash of most GOP education plans, save for GWB [President George W. Bush]. Too heavily emphasizes choice options rather than focusing on how to truly improve our public schools.”
• “Old agenda being brought about by old guys. A Bush redo.”
• “Pander.”
•Some were more enthusiastic saying “love it” or calling the plan a “good start” that could be tough to implement.

Other interesting insider insights:

•Support for the Common Core State Standards Initiative seems strongest within the Obama administration, and weakest in Congress. The folks who really need to love it—local education leaders—are relatively supportive.

•Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is just not happening anytime soon. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed don’t expect to see it until after December 2014. But you may not have needed a bunch of insiders to tell you that.

•The Insiders are unimpressed with Congress’ handling of education issues. In fact, zero percent of them approve of the way Congress is handling education. I’ll bet a lot of folks would second that.

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