The White House's budget proposal goes on line this week with a distinct focus on "out-educating" the nation's global competitors. A central idea behind the administration's vision is to rework the No Child Left Behind law using the Education Department's Race to the Top grant program as the model. We're not quite sure what that means, but administration officials will delve into those details with members of Congress in the coming weeks.
To help kick-start the conversation, let's evaluate where we are now with Race to the Top. The Education Department has completed two rounds of federal grants. Eleven states and the District of Columbia received funds under the program. More than 20 states that submitted applications didn't get anything. What can we learn from their experience?
Race to the Top has faced criticism among Republicans and program applicants for being too prescriptive about how states and school boards operate. Yet Education Secretary Arne Duncan asserts that the program has been the most successful school initiative in years because it has caused 41 states to adopt common core achievement standards. Who is right? Can a Race to the Top model be an effective guideline for updating No Child Left Behind? If so, how would it work? In general, what role should competitive grants play in boosting education levels?