Race to the Top Fund - USA
In 2009 the US government established a Race to the Top (RTT) Fund of $4.35 billion for educational reforms which schools would compete for by demonstrating that they are:
- Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
- Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
- Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
- Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.
The RTT program reflects the Obama's administration's "focus on charter schools, relentless use of data [ie standardised tests], and common standards". For example, in its application for the Fund, Louisiana educators have committed themselves to make many key eduational decisions on the basis of standardised test results:
Teachers will be evaluated partly on their students' test score growth. Principals will be judged based on how many successful teachers they hire. Schools of education could be financially rewarded — or closed — depending on the performance of their graduates. And professional development programs could be expanded — or scrapped — based on whether they produce measurable results.
Race to the Top has been embraced by business leaders including Louis V Gerstner Jr, formerly CEO of RJR Nabisco, CEO and chair of IBM, and chair of the Carlyle Group, who argued that "Competititon among states is also vital to reform... Competition brings out the best performance. That's true in athletics and in business, and its true in education". He argued that the administration was right to consider how well a state had embraced standards, charter schools and holding teachers accountable in selecting winners.
Joanne Barkan noted in Dissent magazine:
It is no exaggeration to say that the criteria for selecting the winners came straight from the foundations' playbook... To start, any state that didn't allow student test scores to determine (at least in part) teacher and principal evaluations was not eligible to compete... States were desperate for funds (in the end, thirty-four applied in the two rounds of the contest). When necessary, some rewrote their laws to qualify: they loosened or repealed limits on the number of charter schools allowed; they permitted teacher and principal evaluations based on test scores.
The Gates Foundation in particular offered schools meeting the Foundation's criteria $250,000 each for hiring consultants to write their RTT applications and recommended firms to do it.
However RTT has also been criticised by civil rights groups for creating winners and losers rather than ensuring that all schools provide a good quality education, including those where most students come from poor, minority households.