Thursday, November 5, 2015

CURMUDGUCATION: Race from the Top

CURMUDGUCATION: Race from the Top:

Race from the Top

Joanne Weiss has been about lately trying to rehabilitate the memory of Race to the Top, trying to blunt the early judgments of history which can be paraphrased as "Race to the Top was a big failure that made a huge mess."

This has prompted some conservative writers to gently suggest that there are some problems with that rearward view of RTTT, well summed up by Andy Smarick (Bellwether) who basically points out that while they feds may have done a swell job, technically speaking, of selling and launching their program, the skipped over the most important question of all-- should they have done it in the first place?

This is a problem that corporatized technocrats ported over from private industry, where management programs like ISO 9001 can focus on how well you've done something, but never look at whether it should be done at all. I've heard management consultants admit that you could get ISO 9001 certification for companies that efficiently accomplished terrible things. You could get certified awesomeness for a company that manufactured and marketed poison breakfast food, or which efficiently abused busloads of elderly folks.

In one article, and then another, Weiss makes her case for how it should have gone, with a fully-formed model for educational excellence flowing down from DC and being properly implemented. Writes Smarick:

In admitting mistakes, Weiss doesn’t cite the program’s size, ambitions, or federal direction. The problem, in her mind, was “sequencing.” New standards should have come first, then improved teacher feedback, then new educator evaluations. The issue wasn’t that RTTT went too far; it just “didn’t do enough to guide states in how to think it all through.”

In this, Weiss echoes two familiar refrains. The golden oldie is "The program would have been super if not for those darn implementation problems." The new hit most recently appeared as part of the 
CURMUDGUCATION: Race from the Top: