An article in today’s The New York Times should be read by all edu-watchers in America. It raises the interesting question (our headline) when putting education in the hands of often unknown entities. With hundreds of millions of dollars on the line in many states across the nation, and an increasing pressure to show results by organizations and companies to raise student achievement, one might think that there would be guarantees when it comes to performance, but many of the organizations getting money to turnaround schools have nothing to do with results. And in many cases, the school districts impacted by these turnaround groups are in urban areas that can’t afford to lose any more ground.
So will this educational infusion of money be like the carpetbaggers of the south following the Civil War, as Dr. Rudy Crew points out in the article, or like the Homestead Act, which gave land to eastern farmers and freed slaves as they settled the west? Although the Homestead Act was controversial in ways, it was a government funded program that gave farmers a reason to move west, settle the land, farm it, and in many cases those families are still there today. Is Race to the Top going to have an impact generations from now?
With many of the entities making big claims, we wonder what the decision makers will be looking for when deciding to pay them. In some cases, experts have weighed in on what they’ve seen so far is not impressive to them, as many of the organizations and companies don’t have a lot of school experience. But with the U.S. Department of Education looking for new ideas, it’s hard to judge what is innovative versus inexperienced. As millions get doled out, it seems that everyone is just chasing the money. At BoardBuzz, we can’t help but ask, is that what’s best for America’s students?