The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Race to the Top:
Winners Are Biggest Losers

Nov 14, 2011

The Obama administration presented its “Race to the Top” as a way to encourage schools to do better. Schools in Murfreesboro, Tennessee know the truth about where it leads.

Tennessee was one of the first two states to win a federal Race to the Top grant, worth 501 million dollars. But administrators in Murfreesboro say its schools have been destroyed by the things they had to do for the state to get that money.

Every single teacher in the state has to be evaluated four times a year, no matter how excellent they’ve been judged to be in the past. That means principals spend so much time evaluating teachers and filling out paperwork that they have no time to really know what’s going on in their schools.

Because there are no standardized student test scores that can be used to evaluate Kindergarten through third grade teachers, as well as art, music and vocational teachers – over half of Tennessee’s teachers face crazy sets of rules to assess their work. Teachers can be assessed with student scores in subjects that have nothing to do with what they teach: writing scores for music teachers, for example; or fifth grade test scores for first grade teachers. One teacher said, “My job can be at risk, and I’m not even being evaluated by my own work.”

Will Shelton, principal of Blackman Middle School in Murfreesboro, says teachers have told him, “Morale is in the toilet. This destroys any possibility of building a family atmosphere. It causes so much mistrust.”

And this is in the best schools in a state that did everything Race to the Top asked it to do!

And it’s had a negative effect on student achievement, not a positive one. Tennessee’s latest scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress are actually lower than they were in 2009 – before these “reforms” were implemented.

Race to the Top is a race to the bottom. It punishes ALL teachers, harasses administrators – and ultimately, it destroys education for all the children touched by it.