Brittle Skillet

Sparks of passion and items of interest.

Posts Tagged ‘Funding

Obama’s “Race to the Top”: Public School Improvement

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By Annaliece Balensiefen, 7 years old

What’s happening in our schools today? What’s happening to our schools today? As our economy continues to struggle, one of our hardest hit public programs is education.

If I understand the numbers correctly, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has provided $117 billion for improvements in our education system. Add to that the launch on Friday, July 24, 2009 of the “Race to the Top” competition, the Obama administration seems to be doing a lot to make improvement to public education a real priority.

We can only hope that the incentives of “Race to the Top” will compellingly inspire real change in school districts across America. But how badly are states individually interested in gaining this funding opportunity? And what checks are in place to ensure that the achieved funds will be used effectively?

The four areas “Race to the Top” targets are:

  • The adoption of rigorous standards and assessments
  • The recruitment and retention of high quality teachers
  • A significant turnaround for low-performance schools
  • The establishment of data systems to track student achievement and teacher effectiveness

School districts and states need to be creative, innovative, and very realistic when addressing these four areas. The idea behind “Race to the Top” is magnificent in its natural use of competition to create best, most effective practices. Competition works this way in the business world. Can the competitive arena do the same for our failing schools?

The national spotlight now shines on state districts, and winners win for the whole state. This is huge, and hugely important.

Extraordinary examples of how improvements are already being made do exist. Most of the time, these scarce examples fly under the radar, but in Soledad O’Brien’s series Black in America produced and run on CNN, an shining example of success stands out. Steve Perry of Hartford, Connecticut is having a significant influence on kids in his community with his Capital Preparatory Magnet School. His approach is all about the details. In his opinion, it is the details that result in a better, brighter big picture.

The success of Capital Prep is in stark contrast to what is happening at most of America’s schools. Many school districts are having to cutback on educational support, and even the kids are noticing. For example, at a school in San Jose, California a student is concerned about the number of students he’ll have in his classroom next year.

I am hopeful that all governors, school boards, principals and teachers, and anyone else who can constructively get involved with public school improvements will look at what Steve Perry and other’s successful models have achieved. If we have good ideas, let’s submit them to representatives on local school boards and our local government. Now is the time for brainstorming all the possibilities. Our kids, our economy, and our future as a global contributor and competitor demand it.

Investments by State – Click a state to see where funds are allocated and paid out.

Drawing by Annaliece Balensiefen, 7 years old

© Julie Pierce and Brittle Skillet, 2009-2011.

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Written by Julie Pierce

July 26, 2009 at 4:25 pm