Wednesday, April 24, 2013

President Bush & President Obama's Education Initiatives

Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind:
Are these initiatives worth our time and effort?

President Bush and President Obama have both declared a need for better school systems.  For Bush, the solution is No Child Left Behind.  Obama’s solution is Race to the Top.  Both of these solutions leverage federal funding to help improve standards/assessments, data/accountability, effective teachers/principals, and ways of turning around low-performing schools.  

The core of these two policies differentiates the directionality of the leaders.  Race to the Top is a grant allocated to only a few states based on a point system.  No Child Left Behind is an act that federally mandates changes in school systems.

No Child Left Behind
In 2001, Bush’s school reform act was put in place.  No Child Left Behind utilizes Title I funding.  Title I grant funding is allocated for schools with socio-economically disadvantaged students.  No Child Left Behind was enacted as a mechanism to ensure standards are met to receive Title I funding. 

Failure to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), results in school systems flowing through a systemic process associated with school turnaround.  Years 2-4 focus on improvements of the system, year 5 corrective action, and year 6 restructuring of the school system.  States are mandated to follow up in order to continue receive funding from the federal government.  Figure 3, below, shows Georgia's funding stream based upon No Child Left Behind.

Race to the Top
Obama’s initiative builds off from Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act.  Race to the Top was enacted in 2009.  The grant is dedicated to states that show innovative educational practices.  The grants were scored on a 500-point system broken into various factors.  Each of the states were graded and then given money based on their capacity.  Minnesota has been the grateful recipient of some of the Race to the Top funding.   The Minnesota application is available online, here.

Race to the Top is based in the belief is that “the best ideas come from leaders at the local level” as Arne Duncan stated.  Race to the Top is innovative in nature.  Once the innovation proves itself through evaluation, the practices are scaled to larger audiences.  Currently, Obama is utilizing No Child Left Behind to create greater reforms.  One example is granting more money for states that include teacher evaluations based upon performance

Does it work?
Yet, through all of these education reforms, student achievement has not seen drastic changes.  Many people are beginning to revolt against standardized testing and are opting out.  This Washington Post article elaborates the quantity and magnitude of those opposing both No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top’s standardized tests.

Many politicians, professionals, parents, and students alike are aware of the educational problems facing our nation.  The challenge is knowing if we are able to fix the structure of education or if we will need a complete renewal?  Here is a RSA Animate for thought--

The United States needs to become a leading change agent  in education for the new generation of learner.  Hopefully, President Bush and Obama's education policies Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind are moving in this direction... only time will tell if these initiatives have been worth the time and effort of countless school leaders and politicians.