I admit it. I haven’t read Colorado’s application for the federal stimulus money for education labeled Race to the Top (R2T). However, I have read some of the reviews, including the one in the Denver Post. When Alan Gottlieb says, “Colorado races sideways,” one could ignore it as the ranting of an ardent education reform proponent. However, when the Denver Post calls it a “False start,” you can pretty much be guaranteed that things aren’t good.
Last week the National Association for Public Charter Schools rated Colorado charter school law as fifth in the country. This was a sign that Colorado could be well up in the ratings for R2T money. It’s not a guarantee, but a state’s encouragement of charter schools was a major element of the R2T criteria.
However, Colorado decided to be less than daring in its approach to other criteria in the R2T guidelines. Rather than looking at the criteria for scoring high in the rankings, Colorado chose a collaborative approach, which rather than the normal use of the term, meant that they let anyone and everyone take the focus off of the prize and water down the impact of the application.
According to Nancy Mitchell’s analysis, it appears that the biggest distraction was allowing the teachers’ union to soften the commitment to performance pay. Instead of promising to implement a bold plan for teacher evaluation and pay, the Colorado application promises to put together a council to study it.
Governor Ritter and other speakers at the press conference seemed nonchalant about the fact that they understand that this wasn’t exactly what the federal government wanted. However, he bragged in this press release that “More than 600 people helped develop the proposal over the past six months” It would be interesting to find out, in this year of tight budgets and furlough days for state employees, how many of those six hundred people were state employees and how many hours that represented.
Lieutenant Governor O’Brien said, “In this race, it is important to remember that the interim prize may be federal dollars, but the finish line is closing the achievement gap and providing opportunities for every Colorado student to realize his or her potential.” That may be true, but then why did it take 600 people six months to develop a proposal that the preparers of the proposal seem to admit is weak?
This grant of $377 million could go a long way to helping Colorado close that gap and provide those opportunities. The Governor seems to be sending a mixed message. He thought the R2T funding was so important that he had 600 people working on the proposal, but not important enough to seriously try to meet all of the criteria. It’s a message, I don’t understand.
Just so that I’m not misunderstood, I respect Alan Gottlieb’s writing and perspective; however, there are others who I’m sure look at him as ranting about education reform.