Ideas Don’t Come From Washington, But Money Does
The following excerpt comes from an article in the Christian Science Monitor about Arne Duncan’s approach to education policy:
Indeed, the practice of finding and highlighting innovative solutions that exist somewhere outside Washington seems to be at the core of Duncan’s approach. It’s the rationale for the $5 billion “Race to the Top” stimulus money, which he hopes to use to reward schools that are centers of successful innovation.
The “Race to the Top” would reward innovation if it gave schools money for implementing programs that the schools came up with on their own. Administrators would think, “We need to create something innovative to get the money.” They would experiment, and the best ideas would earn “Race to the Top” dollars.
That’s not how the “Race to the Top” actually works. Duncan has decided in advance which practices he prefers, and he intends to use the “Race to the Top” money to induce schools to conform.
An extended school year is one such favored policy:
“Our school calendar is based upon the agrarian economy and not too many of our kids are working the fields today,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
National standards are another:
“We need national standards, and assessments to measure them,” Duncan said. “The idea of having 50 states designing their own standards is crazy.”
Duncan is right when he says the best ideas often don’t come from Washington. Unfortunately, schools sometimes ignore good ideas when Washington pays them to follow the crowd.