District-Level Race to The Top, Another Bad Idea on Top of a Pile of Bad Ideas

The U.S. Department of Education announced it’s $400 Million District-Level Race to the Top program last week.  Now they are totally bypassing the states and going straight to the school districts.  There are over 14,000 school districts in the country, but only those districts with a minimum of 2500 students and 40% of students who meet the poverty guidelines (those who qualify for free or reduced lunch) are eligible to apply for the grants. Smaller school districts may join with other districts to apply, even districts in other states. The DOE is encouraging districts within states to craft reform plans that incorporate the “four cornerstones” of improving teacher quality, school turnaround plans, student data collection, and standards and assessments.

Plans must have the signatures of the district superintendent, school board officials, and local union presidents (if there are any).  Ignoring federalism, state education chiefs have no power to veto the plans and are given just five days to comment on them.

They also want schools to stretch beyond focusing on academics:

The proposal offers competitive preference to applicants that form partnerships with public and private organizations to sustain their work and offer services that help meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs, and enhance their ability to succeed.

So we’re officially adopting the schools = social services agencies model.  Public comment lasts until June 8th and you can do that here.  And here we see yet another horrible, unconstitutional idea come out of the Obama Administration.