In formal remarks at James C. Wright Middle School in Madison Wisconsin, President Obama outlined the federal government’s 4.3 billion dollar Race to the Top awards. His presentation defined “four challenges that our country has to meet for our children to outcompete workers around the world, for our economy to grow and to prosper, and for America to lead in the 21st century.”
These are defined on White House blog as:
• transforming our lowest-performing schools
• using timely information to improve the way we teach our children
• outstanding teachers and principals in our classrooms and our schools
• higher standards and better assessments that prepare our kids for life beyond a classroom
Excerpts from his remarks:
America’s national mission: improving our schools not in unrealistic ways, not in abstract ways, not in pie-in-the-sky ways — in concrete ways we are putting our resources behind the kinds of reforms that are going to make a difference.
And I want to get into some details about this because I want you, as parents, as well as the educators, to understand what the data and the science and the studies and the research show actually make a big difference in terms of school improvement — because that’s what we are basing this stuff on. We didn’t just kind of make it up, didn’t just do it because it sounded good, this is what the research shows is really going to make a difference.
The first measure is whether a state is committed to setting higher standards and better assessments that prepare our children to succeed in the 21st century. And I’m pleased to report that 48 states are now working to develop internationally competitive standards — internationally competitive standards because these young people are going to be growing up in an international environment where they’re competing not just against kids in Chicago or Los Angeles for jobs, but they’re competing against folks in Beijing and Bangalore.
I also challenge states to align their assessments with high standards — because we should — we should not just raise the bar, we should prepare our kids to meet it. There’s no point in having really high standards but we’re not doing what it takes to meet those standards. And I want to be clear. This is not just about more tests, because I know that in the past people have been concerned about, you know, is this about standardized tests, or are we going to have our young people being taught to the test? That’s the last thing we want.
And that’s why the fourth measure we’ll use in awarding Race to the Top grants is whether a state is focused on transforming not just its high-performing schools, not just the middle-of-the-pack schools, but the lowest-performing schools. (Applause.) We’ll look at whether they’re willing to remake a school from top to bottom with new leaders and a new way of teaching, replacing a school’s principal if it’s not working, and at least half its staff — (applause) — close a school for a time and then reopen it under new management, even shut down the school entirely and send its schools — send its students to a better school nearby.
These remarks are about public schools but that gives little comfort that homeschoolers will not get swept up in this reform. For homeschoolers, assessments and data collection are the broom and dustpan of this reform. Homeschoolers have seen many reforms and survived, but, not without study, understanding and effort.