Cory Roush

Dissonance and tension plus reflection and resolution equal intellectual growth

Punished by a Race to the Top?

Disclaimer: I have, admittedly, not done a lot of research into the Department of Education's "Race to the Top" program. I'm not sure why I have avoided reading much into it; it's not as if my career will someday hinge on its success or failure, right? I've got the general overview, but I've yet to delve deep into what anyone is thinking about the implications of the plan.

But I was reading Alfie Kohn's Punished by Rewards tonight and I came across this paragraph. It stood out to me as a potential roadblock in the way of meaningful collaboration among states to further our goals for education reform:

"Of all the ways by which people are led to seek rewards, I believe the most destructive possible arrangement is to limit the number that are available. To do so is to replace the possibility that people will try to assist each other with the near certainty that they will try to defeat each other. But whether it is simply permitted by a standard individual incentive system, or actually required by a race for awards, contests are destructive for several reasons beyond the fact that they preclude the sort of teamwork that leads to success."

Is this a viable complaint with the Race to the Top program? Do you think that states might actually shy away from helping other states out in an effort to make sure that their proposals are the most innovative and effective?

My personal opinion is that we'll never see such rivalry start from the bottom up: the sheer number of educators who are connected online and sharing their teaching methods and strategies with each other daily is a testament to our inherent desire to work together. But as you near the top (no pun intended) and your salary and employment begin to depend on your ability to rein in spending and find sources of funding for your school, might we see administrators and states' Departments of Education become a little more walled off?

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