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ERIC Number: ED516498
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Sep
Pages: 17
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Politics and the Scoring of Race to the Top Applications. Education Stimulus Watch. Special Report 4
Bowen, Daniel H.
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
The Obama administration's education legacy could hinge on the success of the Race to the Top (RTT) program. Now more than ever, with the Department of Education's recent announcement of the round-two winners, RTT has received its share of praise and criticism. The praise stems from RTT's success in fostering policy discussions about the education-reform environment--like the legislative battles on charter schools in New York and Alabama--that can lead to low-cost reforms. Critics have attacked the application process for its subjective criteria and anonymous scoring and have questioned its ability to yield meaningful outcomes. RTT presents something of a Catch-22, as the application guidelines stipulate that state proposals ought to include the support of the same teachers unions that are deeply concerned about many of the required changes. However, while the impact of these efforts on student outcomes will remain unmeasureable for some time, the application and grant-making process is now ripe for scrutiny. Research by William Peterson and Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute has raised questions about whether RTT possesses the objectivity required of an impartial evaluation process. While this research has dissected the shortcomings of the RTT application process, the "extent" of RTT's subjectivity remains unaddressed. This "Education Stimulus Watch" report uses independent studies of states' education-reform track records on certain RTT criteria to examine disparities between projected and actual scores for the first round of RTT. The author finds a disparity between these scores that raises red flags about the objectivity of the process. Of particular concern, given how much the impact of RTT relies on the assumption of a level playing field, are suspicions that scoring may have been driven by political influences. To explore such concerns, the author employed regression analysis to examine the first-round scores of the forty-one states that applied. The regression model incorporates a state's political circumstances (that is, the contentiousness of its upcoming elections) and an education-reform index that reflects a state's demonstrated reform efforts, making it possible to identify the degree to which political considerations appeared to influence a state's first-round score. The hypothesis guiding this analysis is that states of greater interest to the White House received preferential grades on their RTT applications. Through regression analysis, it is possible to measure such a preference by inserting political factors (for example, whether a state has a heated gubernatorial or Senate race) into the equation. Appendices include: (1) Methods for Calculating a State's Projected RTT Score; (2) Political Factors; (3) RTT Data; and (4) Aggregates. (Contains 30 notes.)
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. 1150 Seventeenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-862-5800; Fax: 202-862-7177; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Identifiers - Location: United States
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Race to the Top