Race to the Top- A Plan for K-12 Education Reform
Race to the Top and the Obama Administration, 2010-2011
During the last few months, the United States Department of Education has conducted a competition to find states and school systems that are committed to major change in our nation’s schools. Each state that elected to participate was required to submit a reform plan to make significant changes in how schools reach all students, regardless of race or economic background.
Over 40 states have submitted applications to change their schools. In the first round of competition, only two states were selected to receive millions of dollars in financial support. These two states were Delaware and Tennessee. Additional funds were available, but the Secretary of Education did not feel the other states that had applied were making the kind of changes needed for major reform in their respective state’s schools.
All states were given an additional chance to go back and make the kind of changes that would make them competitive for funding. This new opportunity resulted in a number of states receiving the available funds to change their schools. These states are highlighted in an article, written by the United States Department of Education (http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/nine-states-and-district-columbia-win-second-round-race-top-grants).
Race to the Top: Why Should Parents Care About Educational Reform?
Why should parents be interested in this kind of reform across the country? Race to the Top literally means that the United States would like to have the top test scores internationally. Currently, the United States is ranked number 36 is math and science scores behind most northern European countries and Asian countries like China, India, and Japan. There are a number of reasons why schools must change, and parents and community members need to be a part of what is going on across the country. Even in states that were not selected for funding, a number of changes have already been made.
National Standards Make the United States More Competitive with Other Countries. We have seen many states agree to adopt a set of common standards in mathematics and other subjects. These standards will be the same for every state and school in the country- thus we will have for the first time the ability to compare the mathematics standards , for example, in California with the same subject in Indiana. These standards will be designed to make sure students in the US are competitive with students all over the world.
Charter Schools That Focus on Science or Raise Expectations or Use Innovative Teaching Methods Make the United States Competitive with Other Countries. Many states have also passed laws and/or regulations to provide additional support for charter schools. In these states, charter school opportunities have been expanded and funds to support charter schools have been made available. In addition, some states have created opportunities for other innovative and/or autonomous schools- those designed to provide alternative education opportunities to students outside the structure of a traditional school approach.
Questions You Can Ask Your Principal and Superintendent. Parents need to know what is going on in their State’s Departments of Education. Consider the following questions;
- How do parents find out if their state applied for these reform funds, and if so, how are parents able to review the plan submitted to the US Department of Education?
- What laws and/or regulations, if any, were adopted by your state to support the application that was submitted?
- How do parents know if their state was selected to receive millions of dollars to reform the schools of that state?
- What additional opportunities, if any, are available to your child, your school and your school system?
- Finally, how will these reform changes impact your child (if in a public school) in his/her school and classroom(s) during next school year and beyond?
Many parents, business leaders, politicians, and educators know we must improve our schools to be competitive with students all over the world, from China to Ireland. This will require major changes in the way our schools are organized and what is taught in the classroom. In addition, the way we test our students will also need to be significantly improved throughout the country.
Race to the Top is a way to provide additional financial support to help drive the changes we need to improve our schools. It is not the only means of driving change, but it represents an honest attempt to help lead the changes needed to bring about improvement.
Parents and grandparents should become very familiar with what is happening and how it will impact your child/grandchild. This is a significant opportunity that cannot be squandered by inaction, apathy or a lack of knowledge from parents. We all have a stake in the drive to change our schools- to keep what is working and change what is not working.
Be involved! Become knowledgable! Support the changes you think are necessary and let your voice be heard on those changes you think need further clarification. Now is the time to get involved—our future as a country and the future of your child demand that parents play an important role in the improvement of our schools.
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