Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Race to the Top?

I just returned from The Network of Michigan Educators conference held in Lansing today.  Our afternoon session included a surprise visit by Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Needless to say, it's always exciting to be at an event when the governor pays a visit regardless whether or not you agree with her policies.

The purpose of Governor Granholm's visit was to enlist the conference attendees support of Michigan's application for the "Race to the Top" federal dollars that will be awarded next Spring.  However, as she explained, Michigan must first pass some education reforms through the legislature before they can even apply.

These reforms include more charter schools, expanded alternative teacher certification, and teacher reviews tied to student performance.  If passage of the reforms is successful and Michigan is able to have their application accepted to "win", it would mean an influx of nearly $400 million dollars in federal aid for education.

This money if awarded, would come with federal strings attached and couldn't just be used to restore cuts to the general education budget. 

State School Superintendent Mike Flanagan spoke after the governor and made an interesting remark.  He compared President Obama's education initiatives to President Nixon's diplomatic outreach to China.  He explained that a democratic president of the era wouldn't have had the support to restore relations to a communist country, and in this era a republican president would never be allowed to suggest the education reforms that President Obama is proposing.

To me, the forms make sense on a philosophical level, but like most federal legislation there could be a devil in the details.

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Nancy Flanagan said...

Like you, I heard both of these speeches--and think you a very good job of summarizing the key points (and the secondary messages). Mike Flanagan's point about Obama moving forward essentially the same agenda as Bush was a good one (the Nixon/China example)--and I appreciated his expressing his initial ambivalence about tying teacher effectiveness to test scores.

When Flanagan said he'd read the 1000+ pages of Race to the Top regulations, and was satisfied that test data would be only one of several useful indicators of effectiveness--and that he worried about his own daughter's evaluations--I found that reassuring.

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