The editors have learned the following from our RTTT experience. Readers are invited to review the news articles upon which we created these observations, and draw their own conclusions.
- RTTT is having an enormous influence on state legislation favorable to RTTT goals.
- Public awareness and debate is occurring in numerous communities which never previously spent much effort defining their educational beliefs.
- Many state education departments sold the RTTT program to LEA’s using the money as the hook, and a few states appeared to be solely motivated by the money at a state level. In the end, this is probably not negative as long as positive change occurs.
- A few states appeared to simply see an RTTT grant as a way to relieve state expenditures for existing programs. By and large, these states were sorely disappointed when winners were announced.
- States over-estimated their chances of an award, since funds available only amounted to 35-50% of the “suggested application ranges” provided by ed.gov.
- States generally agreeing with RTTT goals seemed to appreciate ed.gov taking a strong leadership role in establishing a national education plan, which provides focus and accountability.
- The few states having strong disagreements with RTTT displayed diverse, many times polarized, opinions within their states; for example Texas, where declining to participate seemed to be a combination of political posturing and misunderstanding the details of RTTT intentions. California demonstrated its long-established controversial nature, with major interest groups pitted against each other and no consensus. California did not win an award. In contrast, New York also had significantly polarized views within the state, and they received their full requested award.
- A number of states strongly competed for RTTT because they have already adopted many educational policies/programs aligned with RTTT goals and therefore felt a competitive advantage. Others gave up without even applying due to their in-state political view of RTTT goals.
- Teachers’ Unions have been the primary dissenters in many larger states, particularly in the Northeast, caused by RTTT’s “Teacher Evaluation based on Student Performance” criteria. However, many Teachers Unions outside the Northeast subscribed to RTTT goals and simply bargained for a voice in implementation.
- Many national education associations either avoided taking a position on RTTT or either publicly or privately expressed a negative viewpoint, surprisingly including the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and the National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators (NAFEPA). Change seems to threaten even proponents of a cause.
We, and others including Education Week, predict that ed.gov will in future years migrate an increasing proportion of grants from Title 1 formulas to competitive bidding.
Change is a process: Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing. RTTT laid a clear Forming path, with goals the Editor subscribes to. Storming is the unfortunate but normal in the U.S. resistance to change by bureaucracy at all levels. Norming occurs when vested interests finally figure out how to make the plan work. Performing is getting back to work in the changed scenario. A good manager is measured by the amount of time it takes to complete this process, the less time the better. For this, the editor awards an A+ to Race To The Top, which has created enormous positive change in many states and on the national scene in less than a year. Other government agencies can learn a lot from the Department of Education.
For detailed information on RTTT, which includes each state’s application in its entirety, peer group reviewer comments, and videos of in-person presentations by State finalists, we refer you to www.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop.