Editor's note: This post is the first entry of a three-part series on Race to the Top's legacy and the federal role in education. You can read the final two entries here and here.
Secretary Duncan’s resignation announcement produced less commentary on Race to the Top (RTTT) than I expected. I was hoping for more.
Though they’re now out of vogue, I’m still open to federal competitive grant programs, and I’m trying to decide when they’re appropriate and what form they should take. I also have some personal interest in the program. In 2009–10, I spent an inordinate amount of time analyzing applications and writing about the competition. As a state official in 2010–12, I worked on a RTTT grant.
This gigantic program—and the era with which it’s associated—deserves scrutiny. We ought to ask ourselves how this experience should inform future federal policy making.
William Howell’s Education Next article “Results of President Obama’s Race to the Top” is a good place to start. Howell marshals new evidence, showing the overlap of the program’s lifespan with an era of lively state-level policy change.
But I think Howell overstates RTTT’s influence. The analysis gives the federal government more credit than it deserves and, more...