The news that 15 states plus the District of Columbia qualified as finalists in the first round of the “Race to the Top” is sure to anger many reformers, and for good reason. Arne Duncan has spent a year saying that he was going to keep the bar high. But really? New York, which failed to pass a slew of reforms last month? Kentucky, without a charter school law? Ohio?
There are two possible explanations. One is politics. (That’s self-explanatory.) The other is process. I would make a bet that one or two of the truly reform-minded states ended up on a panel of reviewers that were particularly tough graders–and that to include them as a finalist the Department had to go further down the “slate” than it would have wanted to. Believe me, I speak from deep personal experience.
Either way, this is a sad day for reformville.