Racing Requires Winners and Losers

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Duncan: "You're really gonna tell these people that? I'm so screwed."

On face value, getting money for education from the government is awesome. As a left-leaning voter (with no party), I should celebrate the government’s intervention in boosting the value of our schools most in-need. I should be happy that within the last few months, New York State has garnered at least 520 million dollars in Obama aid from a purported “teacher” bill earlier this month (by my calculations) and another 700 million from another education-focused program, and, if I didn’t know any better, I’d be jumping out of my seat waiting for David Paterson to make it rain on the rest of us.

I gave the confluence of these two bills a few moments to marinate, and it got me to thinking: we’re talking about two bills that have effectively solidified the isolation of parents, teachers, and students into a one-track lane of do-or-die testing, and I can’t stand for it.

Hear me out. First, the bill passed on the week of August 11th authorized $26 billion dollars to go into ensuring that school districts and states could retain their current teacher corps, an important measure to save thousands of teaching jobs across the nation. Yet, they do this by undercutting food stamps from populations that truly need this kind of service to get their kids to school everyday. Poor families of all colors receive this benefit, and on face value, they’ll only have one group to blame.

Then Obama’s administration announces the winners of the 2nd round of The Race to the Top competition. As EducationCEO pithily pointed out this afternoon, this race, as with most races, requires winners and losers. I’m thoroughly disappointed that the winners weren’t more diverse geographically. Most of the winners align with the East Coast, leaving states like Michigan and California on their knees thinking of ways to fix their systems. More importantly, the proponents of this bill don’t care if the school cultures improve; they care more that we’re increasing our test-taking ability, even when studies continue to show the faulty logic behind using those as a measure for student intelligence or, for that matter, teacher effectiveness.

The effects of these two bills on a national and local level are underestimated. Nevermind that all this focus on testing hasn’t really done anything for us in the last couple of decades. Nevermind that our students have a hard time reading a map, and some of this year’s classes of freshmen in college need their parents to fill out a job application for them. We can’t possibly tell our students we want them to go on trips when principals are scared that one day of missing classes could mean one less day that group of students has to prepare for a 60-minute test.

It’s a sick game politicians and think-tankers play with the English language and media, and those of us who don’t have conglomerates backing us stand to lose out here. Unless of course, we speak out. Sometimes, speaking out of turn means we can get the wheels churning for change, and not the kind that’s being spent to get us deeper into this mess.

Jose, who relishes this summer like no other …