Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

Tag: Race to the Top

Feb.
18th

Lawmakers finally take a step toward education reform

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It rarely pays to get too hopeful about education reform in this state. But the Legislature – the Senate at least – has actually taken a major step toward accountability in Washington’s public schools.

Senate Bill 5895, which cleared that chamber Tuesday, requires the use of objective student-performance measures in the evaluation of teachers. It also requires that feedback from teachers be used in the evaluation of principals.

Teachers and principals can lose their jobs if they keep flunking the new tests. This turns Washington tradition on its head. In this state, it can take a felony to separate a faculty member from his or her job. Only the bravest administrators have dared tackle the convoluted, expensive process required to fire the incompetent.

Let’s not get giddy, though. The Senate’s move to tie “student growth data” looks impressive only in terms of the state’s benighted history. SB 5895 is not radical. It would not make Washington a leader in education reform. It would merely help the state catch up to the middle of the pack.

But the 46-3 vote in the Senate is impressive. Most education reform measures are throttled in committee. Once this one reached a floor vote in open daylight, lawmakers embraced it – if only to avoid shame in some cases.
Read more »

July
28th

Race to the Top: Who needed the money, anyway?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It would be giving Washington way too much credit to say the state was an also-ran in Race to the Top.

“Pathetic wannabe” would be more accurate.

Last year, Gov. Chris Gregoire pulled Washington out of the first competition for $4.35 billion in federal education money. The money was put up as a prize for the states most serious about retooling their schools for high performance; Washington could barely budge the needle on the Obama administration’s reform meter.

In round two this year, well, at least Gregoire sent in the entry form. Washington didn’t get far; it washed out Tuesday – on the first cut.

No one who’s been paying attention can claim surprise. Washington’s education establishment – meaning its lawmakers, school districts and teachers unions – is so resistant to reform that not even the prospect of $250 million in the middle of a severe recession could persuade it to accept the necessary painful changes.

The 2010 Legislature took some baby steps toward more rigorous accountability for schools and educators, but nothing close to what the Department of Education and education pioneers have been advocating.

For example, lawmakers flirted with using student performance measures to evaluate teachers and principals, but did not require districts to connect hard data to job evaluations. Other states did, some with the cooperation of more enlightened teachers unions.
Read more »

May
14th

Peninsula’s not sabotaging Race to the Top

The Peninsula school people are on board with Race to the Top, they want us to know.

Gov. Chris Gregoire came by yesterday to ask for help appealing to local school districts to endorse the state’s application for $250 million in Race to the Top money. That would be Washington’s share of a $4 billion-plus pool the Department of Education is awarding to states that are serious about school reform.

We saw no reason not to help. Our editorial.

The governor cited some South Sound districts – Peninsula among them – that hadn’t signed on. But Peninsula Superintendent Terry

Read more »

May
13th

No good reason to sit out the Race to the Top

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

School districts often complain about unfunded mandates from the federal government. But apparently they aren’t too crazy about funded non-mandates either.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is encountering trouble where she never expected it: convincing school officials to sign up for their share of a possible $250 million pot of federal money.

The governor is pleading with school superintendents, school board chairs, teachers union presidents and school principals across Washington to join the state’s application for the federal Race to the Top competition.

She’s not having much luck. As of Thursday, the state had in hand signatures representing only 37 percent of the state’s students. The deadline is Monday at midnight.

Read more »

March
30th

A trip at the Race to the Top finish line

This editorial will appear in the Wednesday print edition.

It’s report card time for Race to the Top: “A” for theory, an “A” for effort but a shaky “B-” on the final exam.

The Obama administration set out to shake up the educational status quo last year when it put up $4.35 billion in prize money for states on the front lines of school reform. So far, it has partially succeeded, even among some foot-draggers like Washington.

Proof lies in the education bill Gov. Chris Gregoire has just signed into law. For Washington – an important qualifier – the bill is a big move. For the first time, the state will be able to intervene in schools and districts that just can’t seem to deliver a decent education. New teachers will remain on trial for three years, not two. Read more »

March
8th

Race to the Top: A low bar that Washington can’t clear

The Washington Post complains here that the Obama administration’s “very, very high bar” for Race to the Top education grants has actually proven to be a very low bar.

Fifteen states, plus the District of Columbia, were selected last week as finalists for the money, which is supposed to reward states that are pioneering successful education reforms. Fifteen finalists out of 40 states doesn’t sound like an exclusive club.

But – Washington not only didn’t make the cut, it wasn’t in the running. Gov. Gregoire withdrew the state’s bid last year after it became apparent we were too far

Read more »

Feb.
13th

Lawmakers sit out the Race to the Top

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

We now know the Legislature plan’s for competing for Race to the Top education dollars: Too little, too late.

The Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a bill that supposedly positions Washington to win its share of Race to the Top funding – money the Obama administration is offering states at the cutting edge of education reform.

Washington isn’t at the cutting edge. It isn’t even at the dull edge. It’s at the back of the handle of a dull blade.

Gov. Chris Gregoire had to withdraw the state from the first round of the federal competition because Washington was simply a non-contender. Many of the key reforms U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan was looking for – such as high-quality charter schools – were nowhere to be found within our borders. There went Washington’s shot at $200 million-plus that would have been a godsend during a brutal budget crisis.

The 2010 Legislature, in theory, has decided to put the state back in the running for round two. Senate Bill 6696 would in fact take several serious steps toward better-performing schools.
Read more »

Jan.
14th

A classroom view of school reforms

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Many people presume to speak for teachers: lawmakers, parents’ groups, the Washington Education Association, various K-12 lobbies. But there’s no substitute for letting teachers speak for themselves.

What teachers think is a particularly timely question right now. Last year, Washington forfeited any claim it might have had to $4 billion in “Race to the Top” funding the Obama administration has offered to states pioneering cutting-edge reform strategies. In Olympia, the political resistance to some of those strategies – merit pay, for example – has often been framed in terms of what’s best for educators.

After the Race to the Top failure, a partnership of pro-education organization decided to find out what a scientific sample of actual rank-and-file teachers thought of the proposed reforms. The Excellent Schools Now Coalition surveyed educators in November. As it turns out, they appear much more receptive to the Race to the Top policies than some seem to think.

Excellence in Schools Now is a high-credibility group that includes the College Success Foundation, Black Collective, League of Education Voters, Stand For Children and the Washington Roundtable. Some of the results from its survey:
Read more »