Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, the former director of the Institute of Education Sciences, argues in this Education Week commentary that the Obama administration's signature education policy program, the $4 billion Race to the Top competition, was not authorized by Congress. As a reporter who covered the development of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act very closely, I found his commentary thoughtful but, ultimately, I disagree with his conclusion that the program wasn't authorized. In making his argument, Whitehurst takes a look at the actual language in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The bill says, in a nutshell, that the ...


This editorial in yesterday's Los Angeles Times appears to be causing the U.S. Department of Education some Race to the Top trouble. And this may be an instance in which the department hasn't really earned it. The Times writes of a "deal" (presumably brokered between U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger) to let the state apply for round two of Race to the Top even though only a few districts would take part. And this deal supposedly allowed the education secretary to save face by ensuring the largest state applied for his signature ...


Education Secretary Arne Duncan continues to have a good day at the office as 37 states plus the District of Columbia say they're going to compete in the second round of Race to the Top, in which $3.4 billion in economic-stimulus prize money is up for grabs. Given all of the squabbles within states over buy-in, and one or two newsworthy state dropouts from the competition, this is a very strong showing for Duncan's signature education reform driver. No doubt, Duncan recognizes the importance of strong state support for Race to the Top—as is evident by the fact...


So a number of outlets are reporting that Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and also the subcommittee on education spending, is not going to run for re-election. Obey is expected to make a "major" announcement later today. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan & Co. are probably greeting the news with (silent) cheers of joy and (discreetly) breaking open the champagne. Obey has been super skeptical of Duncan's reform agenda almost from the get-go, saying, for instance, that the department is setting cash-strapped school districts up for failure by expecting them to make progress ...


Looking to create a version of the Harlem Children's Zone in your own backyard? Well, you're in luck—if your backyard happens to be a rural, urban, or tribal community. The U.S. Department of Education just released the rules for the new Promise Neighborhood program, which is meant to help communities create schools that offer a range of support services, from health assistance for new moms all the way up to college counseling. Some lawmakers are seeking to make sure the newly revamped version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act includes increased support services, but they are scratching...


A hearing by the Senate education committee is notable for not talking about the administration's proposal to tie Title I aid to states' adoption of college- and career-ready standards.


You may remember that Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, just released a bill aimed at helping states and districts avert a tidal wave of layoffs and programmatic cuts. Education advocates are eager to see passage of the bill, which would include $23 billion in new state stabilization dollars. The U.S. House of Representatives has already approved similar legislation. Rumor has it the Senate bill could hitch a ride on an emergency spending measure aimed at military spending. But folks have some ideas for changes that they say would keep ...


After staying out of the Race to the Top round-two fray for weeks, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is finally starting to take the gloves off and wade into the middle of a big debate over just how important "buy-in" is in a state's application. Today, in a routine conference call with the business community (he does this sort of outreach regularly), he declared: "At the end of the day we're going to [fund] the strongest proposals whether they have tremendous buy-in or not." (The department invited me to listen in on the call, which was to encourage ...


Politics K-12 wants to know, as does Rick "Straight Up" Hess. Race to the Top started out as a new, exciting adventure with the promise of billions of dollars in prize money to help the nation's students. And now, reality is setting in—and the adults are fighting. In the run-up to the first round of the competition, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was a dominating presence, not hesitating to praise the well-behaving and model states (think Louisiana, and all the kudos he gave them for its teacher-education and student data linkage). And he also didn't hesitate to shake...


There's been a lot of talk about how fair the scoring was in the first round of Race to the Top. Did reviewers follow the guidance and always award the correct number of points? Did a few outliers skew the results? Did some states get the luck of the draw and benefit from a bunch of easy graders, or did others draw the short end of stick and get all of the hard graders? The Education Department, as part of its technical assistance seminar in Minneapolis yesterday for state applicants, said it did its own statistical analysis to examine these ...


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