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Race to the Top won't get students any further ahead

Short and sweet. Thank you, Mike Schutz.

By Mike Schutz

Whew. I have to catch my breath. I've been practicing my running so that I can compete in U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan's Race to the Top, the newest federal program to revolutionize our schools.

I'm absolutely convinced that this program will be as successful as the other previous federal program to revolutionize our schools. I am referring, of course, to the No Child Left Behind initiative. To quote our former commander in chief (referring to another of his initiatives): Mission accomplished!

OK, sarcasm probably is not the best approach when discussing an important topic such as education. But when I hear Duncan refer to education in Wisconsin as "ridiculous," I become just a tad irritated at this, well, ridiculous statement.

I'm 63 years old. I have seen so many reform initiatives in my former profession of 37 years that I cannot believe I am sitting here today still trying to convince I'm not sure who that the research is clear: There is no magic bullet to assure that all children will learn. There is no research to point to a program that can be successfully replicated from one district to another, from one school to another or from one child to another.

Please, whomever, stop insulting the teachers who are working hard and smart to make a difference. And stop wasting my tax money for programs that are little more than political posturing.

To be effective, deciding how time and money is spent on improving education cannot come from the top down. You want to know how best to spend time and money to provide kids with the best possible learning experience? Ask a classroom teacher.

I've said this so often and written it so often that I'm becoming worn down. So, one more time - and I'm writing this very slowly so that educational policy-makers will have a better chance of understanding: Most of what is important in defining a great classroom teacher is not measurable. And certainly it is not measurable by student test results.

To base teacher and principal performance on student test resultsm as the Race to the Top features, sounds great on talk radio but is (here's that word again) ridiculous.

While I am not in favor of the state or city becoming involved in school governance, such as has been suggested for the Milwaukee Public Schools, if the state superintendent of public instruction, the governor and the mayor were held accountable for student test scores, I might reconsider my view on this.

After years of dealing with the nonsense from those who know little of what goes on in the classroom, the one sure thing that I know is that all of the current talk of educational reform will have absolutely no effect on improving schools. Racing to the top of this slippery slope will only waste the scarce resources of time and money.

However, despite the ongoing mess created by the current batch of educational policy-makers, I can, based on a lifetime of experience, unequivocally state that teachers will continue to make a difference in the lives of children.

Mike Schutz of Oconomowoc is a retired elementary school principal. E-mail stoney.schutz@gmail.com

— Mike Schutz
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel


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