Race to Deceive

So busy have I been preparing for today’s release of, and Cato forum on, national curriculum standards, that I completely forgot that yesterday was the deadline for states to apply for round two of the Race to the Top. Of course, the Race is precisely what’s gotten many states to sign on to national standards.

In the end, from what I heard last night, 35 states and the District of Columbia applied for round two. Adding the two first round winners to that number means that 13 states decided applying for round 2 just wasn’t worth it. That actually says a lot bad about RTTT, considering how hard it is for state politicians to turn down federal dollars, which after all come from their citizens.

Look into the realities of round one, though, and this anomaly becomes easier to understand. I’ve already linked to a lot of the tough analysis of the first round, but just stumbled on this very insightful “reality check” on RTTT from the Center for Education Reform. CER’s concise guide is well worth reading, and along with the other reality-based critiques of RTTT paints a far different picture of the Obama administration’s signature education move (aside from colossal status quo bailouts and attempted bailouts) than anything the spinmeisters at the Education Department have been furnishing.

So RTTT, for the most part, has been much more PR stunt than driver of real reform. More ominously, it might also just be the warm-up act for the national-standards headliner.