State of the Union mystery: What do Obama's Race to the Top plans mean?
Obama called education key to 'winning the future' and wants to replace No Child Left Behind with a plan based on his Race to the Top initiative. But that left some experts scratching their heads.
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“I think he’s trying to say Race to the Top … is the way to get consensus between Republicans and Democrats for the reauthorization of the ESEA, and I don’t think it will play out that way,” says Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center of Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Whitehurst also says he would have liked to have seen a more coherent, comprehensive education agenda laid out rather than a few pet proposals, and wonders what the federal role will be in goals like increasing the numbers of math and science teachers.
“The devil will be in the details here, and we’ll need to see them in the budget proposal,” he says.
Still, many education reformers were gratified to see education accorded such a prominent place in the speech and in Obama’s agenda, particularly at a time of economic hardship.
“The themes were clichéd, but they were good clichés,” says Frederick Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, who says he’s happy that Obama continued to emphasize the role of parents, the need for better teachers, and the need for funding to be attached to school performance.
“If we take these steps – if we raise expectations for every child, and give them the best possible chance at an education, from the day they’re born until the last job they take – we will reach the goal I set two years ago: by the end of the decade, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world,” Obama said.
“These were strongly phrased sentiments, and something that would have been startling to hear a national Democrat say even four or five years ago,” says Mr. Hess. “Even as we’ve been wrestling with foreign challenges and economic difficulties, to his credit, he and his administration have continually tried to put education forward."