Joanne Weiss, who is now an “independent education consultant,” writes at the Stanford Social Innovation Review that the RttT grant program, funded through President Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill in the name of helping low-income, poor-performing schools, “offers lessons in high-impact grantmaking that are applicable not only in education but also in other fields.”
The Department of Education runs about 150 competitions every year. But among those programs, Race to the Top stands out. It had more than $4 billion to allocate to competition winners, and it attracted the participation of nearly every state in the union. It arguably drove more change in education at the state, district, and school levels than any federal competition had previously been able to achieve.
Weiss, who led RttT from its start, explains the federal government took advantage of the fact that states were strapped for cash due to the recession.
“[S]o the large pot of funding that we had to offer was a significant inducement for states to compete,” she writes, adding the surprise number of 46 states willing to sign onto the Common Core standards initiative was due to “our decision to leverage the spirit of competition.”
Though Weiss apparently believes she and the U.S. Department of Education (USED) fostered “competition,” her essay essentially admits to remarkable amounts of manipulation of states, as well as non-transparency, at the hands of a puppeteer federal government:To help each state bring all parties to the reform table, we deployed four tools.
First, we forced alignment among the top three education leaders in each participating state—the governor, the chief state school officer, and the president of the state board of education—by requiring each of them to sign their state’s Race to the Top application. In doing so, they attested that their office fully supported the state’s reform proposal.
Second, we requested (but did not require) the inclusion of signatures by three district officials—the superintendent, the school board president, and the leader of the relevant teachers’ union or teachers’ association—on each district-level MOU. This approach, among other benefits, gave unions standing in the application process without giving them veto power over it.