Live From Summit 2012: Race to the Top – Are We Closer to the Finish Line?

May 2, 2012

It has been two years since Race to the Top launched, and this afternoon’s lunch panel, hosted by NBC News’s Rehema Ellis, discussed how far we have come, and what obstacles remain.

Ellis started off by asking Joanne Weiss, of the U.S. Department of Education, if she felt Race to the Top is the defining program that’s going to make a difference to the 15 million children living in poverty.

Weiss stressed that “There is no magic bullet… By the end of the day today, 7,000 children will drop out of school. Race to the Top defines a more impactful role at the federal level.” The goal, she explained, is to empower states to take ownership of the student outcomes in their states.

“Budgets reflect our values – where we are investing our tax dollars,” Weiss added.

Mitch Chester of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education told the audience that he feels Race to the Top is “a courageous move on the part of this Administration… to ensure education prepares students for the world they are going to encounter.” Chester added that the program builds on work that is already being done in Massachusetts. “It’s an ambitious agenda, but it’s moving ahead very well.”

Ellis also brought up the topic of school administrators, like principals, helping to create the needed learning environments.

Jean Desravines of New Leaders responded that, “From a policy perspective, it’s unprecedented.” Over 34 states have decided to enhance education policy underscores the demand for reform. He stressed that change in the laws is not enough – there has to be a focus on execution and implementation.