For An Out-of-the-Box View on RTTT

Read Educflack’s Patrick Riccards, who has a new post up on why New Jersey should either 1) hold off on applying to Race To the Top til June, or 2)simply not apply at all. Riccards, a native New Jerseyan, explains the benefits of either proposition:
1) While Davy’s proposal is “a good plan,” Christie’s transition team was uninvolved in the details and, in fact, Christie won’t even be able to sign it since the application is due the day he gets sworn in as Governor. The state would be better off waiting until Christie’s new team can reshape it to conform with his vision of education reform.
2) Fuggedaboudit. N.J.’s too screwed up to take on another big initiative. Deciding not to compete in RTTT would be a bolder move: “he [Christie] could decree that his education improvement agenda is focused exclusively on the expansion and support of charter schools, and since charters are but a minor part of Race's intentions, he's going to go all-in on charters in his own way, and he'll find the state and private-sector support to make it happen without the federal oversight.”

Riccards notes that the “major wrinkle” canopying N.J.’s ed reform efforts is NJEA’s opposition. He writes, “rewriting the Race app means losing NJEA support entirely…and the state needs the endorsement of the teachers union to put forward an acceptable application.” Well, he wrote his entry this past Friday and since then the NJEA head honchos have made it clear that any chance of even the most meager support is a pipedream. NJEA’s website now includes talking points to argue with board members; a screed that attacks standardized testing and merit pay (despite research like this that shows that it works), a list of “school reforms that work,” which includes the NJEA annual convention, preschool, and reducing class size; and the much-cited Michelle Fuetsch piece that lauds N.J.’s now-obsolete Abbott district funding.

We’re not the only state where state chapters of NEA (see Florida and Minnesota) are inciting local leaders to advocate passing up hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid to schools. Should states be punished for having particularly militant NEA chapters? Hardly seems fair. There’s a sense in which submission of applications despite lack of teacher union sign-off indicates an even stronger commitment to reform. Isn't it easier to send in a proposal when everyone is celebrating consensus rather than sending in one which ignites the fury of opponents of reform? Can we get bonus points for that?

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