Magazine May 3, 2010, Issue

Stroll to the Top

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and President Barack Obama during a visit to Graham Rd. Elementary School in Falls Church, Va., January 19, 2010 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
The president’s education program is a good idea made mediocre in its execution

On March 29, the Department of Education announced the first-round winners in its Race to the Top (RTTT) competition. The $4.35 billion grant program has been hailed by liberals and conservatives alike for its potential to encourage states to improve their K–12 schooling. Yet while the incentive-fueled program shows promise, its sputtering engine has not matched its sleek exterior.

RTTT, a pet project of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, dispenses grants to states based on their submitted plans in four areas: adopting standards and assessments for measuring student performance; building better data systems and using them to improve educational outcomes; raising the

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