Education reform: casino style

Matthew Colwell

Public education just became a poker game. Actually, it’s become a $4.35 billion poker game. If you figure out how to game the system, you might win. If you happen to know the dealer or the owner of the casino, you might win. But if you’re trying to play an honest hand, stop while you’re ahead. As the second round of Race to the Top closed this past August, another lot of winners were announced: the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island.

The Race to the Top is a federal education reform that was originally announced July 24, 2009. While politicians spin the bill as a way to improve schools and the education system, there is little room to see it now as nothing less than an extension of Bush’s No Child Left Behind. The problem is that public education has now become a competition between states for necessary federal funds. Each state can be awarded up to 500 points in six different categories: Great Teachers and Leaders, State Success Factors, Standards and Assessments, General Selection Criteria, Turning Around the Lowest-Achieving Schools and Data Systems to Support Instruction. Those that receive the highest points are given an award.

The problem is the principle of the matter: The federal government is now interfering with the way a state runs its schools. Power is handed over because of the scarcity of funds in the first place, and now they’re gambling on winning them. Somehow it has become an assumption that failing students are always at the hands of teachers. This is then amplified by placing even more accountability on teachers to win the Race to the Top and not to educate our children.

As more power to define educational standards is given to the federal government, teacher turnover rates will soar, and the classroom will become nothing more than a place to teach for a test. Teaching isn’t just about distributing information and having it regurgitated once every year so that the federal government thinks children are learning something, and the state can pick up a few more dollars to keep afloat. There is no free thought or intellectual growth in that.

Education is a personal, one-on-one matter that needs to be taken delicately and from the most precise of viewpoints. By generalizing the standards for students nationwide, it widens the eye on what exactly knowledge is, and the true intellectual will be left in the dust in place of a slew of children regurgitating fact with little analysis. Someone needs to tell the government that centralized control of education will not solve all its problems or even improve the bleak outlook. The government needs to reevaluate its ideas on the educational system.

Matthew Colwell is a junior integrated language arts major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].