There was a story in the Wall Street Journal on May 3 about Race to the Top grants that casts them in a rather dim light. A number of grant winners did not actually move forward with the promised reforms and a number of the reforms did not actually provide any positive outcomes.
Surprise, surprise, surprise.
A lot of this might be just the usual government incompetence and the hit-or-miss range of results from innovation, a good deal more of it is the result of politics taking precedence over pedagogy. That works just fine in legislation and grant documents but not so well in classrooms.
Here are a few noteworthy quotes from the article:
"Rick Hess, director education-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank, worries that some policies, such as some of the new teacher evaluation systems, might unravel because they were 'half-baked' and passed simply to win cash.
"The 'problem with bribing states to do things that have only shaky political support from the outset' is a 'lack of commitment to properly implementing them,' said Mr. Hess."
Wow. No kidding. What an amazing insight. How do I get a think tank job?
"Most winning states have either scaled back planned policy changes or asked for extra time. Georgia lost $9 million of its $400 million after failing to implement teacher merit-pay. New York is having trouble creaing middle-school science and arts assessments, according to federal officials."
Long story short: Not only doesn't it pay to change good teaching practices and policies in pursuit of small sums of federal money, it's often a promise that politicians can't keep.