MacIver Institute Issues Report on Wisconsin’s Race to the Top Failure

August 11, 2010

[Madison, Wisc…] Wisconsin was a two-time loser in the federal Race to the Top program because the state has abandoned its once-strong commitment to innovative education reform, according to a new report by the John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy.

‘Regardless of how one feels about federal education spending, the Race To The Top rewards states that are willing to pursue innovative and data-driven education reform policies,” said Brett Healy, President of the MacIver Institute. “Unfortunately for Wisconsin, Governor Doyle’s educational legacy is a badge of shame for the entire state. Despite his personal assurance and specific legislative attempts to “fix” our educational system, Wisconsin has failed the Race To The Top final exam — twice.”

The report said little was done to address the glaring achievement gap between students of color and their Caucasian peers.

“Instead of looking to other states that have had significant success in leveling the playing field, Governor Doyle and legislators insisted on advancing efforts that have had merely modest impact in Wisconsin,” according to Christian D’Andrea, an education policy analyst with MacIver.

D’Andrea said Wisconsin’s cap on virtual school enrollment and tepid embrace of alternative certification of teachers also hindered the state’s grant request, and he notes both innovations faced strong opposition by the politically-powerful state teachers union.

In all, the MacIver Institute report highlighted six major shortcomings that played into Wisconsin’s repeated, swift dismissal from RTTT funding consideration.

1)    Lack of true commitment from local districts and teachers unions

2)    Teacher quality and improvement issues

3)    A weak recent history of meaningful reform

4)    The strength of standardized testing and student data collection measures

5)    Stagnant charter school regulations

6)    A staggering achievement gap with inconsequential improvement

“Though Wisconsin was once an innovator in the field of education reform, the state has rested on its laurels while the rest of the country has caught up – and in many cases, left Wisconsin far behind,” D’Andrea concluded.

The MacIver Institute’s president said that when it comes to education, Wisconsin’s reputation has taken a remarkable nosedive.

“It is amazing to think that just 15 years ago, Wisconsin was considered to be a leader among the states in education and parental freedom,” said Healy, “Now, because of our reluctance to upset the powerful teachers’ union and challenge the educational establishment, we are a nationally-recognized failure.”

The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy is a free market think tank located in Madison, Wisconsin and at

A full copy of the report can be found here.