Ken Mitchell has written a report for the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Ken is the District Superintendent of the South Orangetown School District in Rockland County in New York State. Federal Mandates on Local Education: Costs and Consequences—Yes, it’s a Race, but is it in the Right Direction? tells the tale of seeing the reality of implementing Race to the Top (RTTT) reform measures and implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
This report deals primarily with only a few of the many districts in New York. It shows the cost to implement the RTTT commitments (mandates) far exceeds the funding received. The best example is the nice per student per year breakdown of RTTT revenue and resultant spending. Depending on the district, the RTTT funds range from $0.87 to $11.79 per student per year for each of four years. The implementation of RTTT reform measures has resulted in an increase in average per pupil spending of nearly $400 per student.
Keep in mind, the RTTT reform measures are ones pushed for and endorsed by many large, powerful, and influential corporations and foundations. Would corporations forge ahead when a reality like this shows itself on their ledgers? I doubt it, but the school districts seem to have little choice to make corrections since the state has committed and directs them to comply with the wishes of the federal government via their RTTT grant.
This report is important and I would like to think decision makers across the country would learn from it but I won’t hold my breath. Yes, NY received RTTT funds. Even though many other states did not receive RTTT funds, many passed legislation requiring the implementation of the same reform measures in the hopes of being funded. So many states are now committed to implement the same costly reform measures—they just have not been provided any federal funds to do so and may not have to adhere to such a strict federally monitored timeline.
Like most states, NY has pushed the cost of implementing reform measures related to standards and assessments and training and evaluation out to cash strapped school districts. School districts across the country are having to resort to drastic measures to implement costly reforms—cutting staff, increasing class size, and redirecting priorities are only a few.
Everywhere there is a lot of talk about education reform but little talk about what will be good for our students. Much reform has little to do with meeting the needs of truly educating students.
I recommend you read this report with an eye on what is happening in your own state and local school district.