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Is Race to the Top Fair?

I've been having an ongoing conversation with a teacher friend about Race to the Top. Her take is that the competition for school reform "violates the idea of equality": Since not every state has applied for the money, not every state has access to the money. And, my teacher friend has noted, that even of the states who've applied, most won't be selected. (There were only two winners in round one, but there could be anywhere from 10-15 in round two.)

In an interesting op-ed in the New York Times late last week, columnist David Brooks, a self-described "moderate conservative," took a different tack on what Race to the Top means for all schools. By holding up prize money that requires reform, all states have benefitted because, if nothing else, Brooks argues, RTT has spurred reform faster than anything else could have.

Here's what he had to say, in part:

Reformers in at least 23 states have passed reform laws in hopes of getting some of the dough. Some of the state laws represent incremental progress and some represent substantial change...Over all, there's been a tremendous amount of movement in a brief time.

...the president has better aligned the education system with American values. In every other job in this country, people are measured by whether they produce results. For decades, that didn't apply to schools, where people were rewarded even as student achievement stagnated.

In this sense, one could argue that RTT could bring about equality, although perhaps not without some pain.

What do you think? Does David Brooks have a point (and he makes more of them in his piece)? Or, are you more inclined to agree with my teacher friend?

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