Another view of Race to the Top

by David Safier

OppGap_CoverA new book and educational campaign, Closing the Opportunity Gap, is being launched today. One of the book's 21 authors is Linda Darling-Hammond, Obama's education advisor during his 2008 campaign and a possible choice as his Ed Secretary. Obama made a serious blunder when he went with Arne Duncan instead.

From the first chapter of the book, visualizing Race to the Top as a literal race up a stairway:

“To visualize how unfair this system has become, imagine two children asked to race to the top of a stairway. One child is well nourished, well trained, and well equipped; the other lacks all these basic resources. But, instead of designing a system around the needs of this second child, her stairway (akin to the minimal opportunities and resources available at her school) is steep and slippery. Meanwhile, the first child’s stairway is replaced with an escalator. Holding these two children to the same standards may allow for a comforting ‘no excuses’ sound byte, but it does nothing to help that second child achieve.”

Some of the areas of improvement suggested by the authors: Provide High-Quality Early Childhood Education; End Segregation in Housing, Schools and Classrooms; Provide Crucial Funding and Resources; Provide More and Better Learning Time; Focus on Childhood Health; Focus on Teacher Experience and Supports; Provide Access to libraries and the Internet; Provide Tutoring; Create Safe and Well-Maintained School Environments; Improve Policies on Student Discipline; Understand Student Cultures and Schooling; Change the Focus of Testing and Accountability; Address the Needs of Language Minorities.

Their suggestions cost money, of course. But they predict a $50 billion annual savings from the economic benefits of closing the opportunity gap and $200 billion in societal savings from, for example, lowering crime and incarceration rates.

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