Wisconsin Once Again Fails in Educational Race to the Top


MacIver News Service | July 27, 2010

[Madison, Wisc…]  Wisconsin has failed in its second attempt to receive federal education dollars sent to states that embrace reform and the pursuit of excellence in education.

In the first round of awards, announced earlier this year, Wisconsin placed 26 out of 40 applicants. Nineteen of 36 applicants made the cut in this second round of awards, meaning Wisconsin did not finish in the top half of applicants for the consolation prizes. 

“Peer reviewers identified these 19 finalists as having the boldest plans, but every state that applied will benefit from this process of collaboratively creating a comprehensive education reform agenda,” said US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Much of the federal dollars we distribute though other channels can support their plan to raise standards, improve teaching, use data more effectively to support student learning, and turn around underperforming schools.”

According to the Department a total of 46 states and the District of Columbia applied for either the first or second rounds –or both.

The 19 finalists in this second round are: Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.

The award winners, as well as the complete scorecards for all applicants will be made public later this year.

When Wisconsin was changing state law to improve its chances to win the Race to the Top, critics argued it the reforms were tepid.

“The stranglehold that the union has on the ability to move ineffective teachers out of the classroom still exists today,” said State Senator Randy Hopper at a legislative hearing this spring.

“We’re blaming everybody else except for educators,” Hopper noted in April. “We’re blaming principals, we’re blaming the parent, we’re blaming the superintendent, the president of the school board. We got to put some accountability into the people in the classroom, this doesn’t go there.”

During the first round, Wisconsin lost points in the area of improving student outcomes, noting specifically the racial achievement gap–the disparity between the performance of students of color and their white peers.

Wisconsin also lost points for its failure to fully implement a longitudinal data system, but the biggest knock against Wisconsin, according to the reviewers’comments, was improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance.

“How the plan will deal with compensating, promoting and retaining principals and teachers is not clear nor is information regarding the granting of tenure and full certification or removing ineffective principals and teachers,” read the official comment of a grant reviewer.

Another reviewer noted that “teacher union support for RTTT [Race to the Top] at the local level [is]lacking.”

While the teachers’ unions did back much of this second application, little was done since this spring to to tie teacher evaluation and compensation to student performance.

The MacIver Institute’s Christain D’Andrea reacts, here.

Our earlier reporting on this second application: