This post originally appeared on the National Review Online and is adapted from an Education Next article.
The “Race to the Top” education initiative is one of
President Obama’s most vaunted domestic-policy successes. The name itself
connotes progress, forward movement, even competition. And there’s plenty of
substance for the president to brag about: Forty-six states and the District of Columbia
signed on to rigorous common standards; dozens of states got serious about
teacher evaluations; key jurisdictions removed caps on charter-school
expansion. This is what New Yorker contributor Steven Brill called “a
sweeping overhaul” of the system.
With the Department of Education proposing a new $5 billion Race to the Top–style
competitive grant program aimed at teacher policy, however, it’s worth taking a
closer look at Race to the Top’s results. When you do, the scorecard changes
The Race to the Top was good for education reform. But
the 2010 election, it turns out, was much, much better.
Did the 2009–10 period, in which states were competing for Race to the Top
funds, see the most reforms ever enacted? No. That distinction belongs to 2011,
after the 2010 midterm elections swept historic Republican majorities into
office in state after state.
Start with teacher evaluations . In
2009, no state specified ineffectiveness as grounds for the dismissal of a
teacher (incredible but true!). By 2010—in part...