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Thursday, November 19, 2009

An unlikely trio on Meet the Press

This past Sunday on Meet the Press with David Gregory, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Reverend Al Sharpton sat down to talk about the state of public education in our country and how President Obama’s Race to the Top Fund is seeking to improve states’ school systems. The trio -- which brings both liberal and conservative ideals to the table -- is not the most likely group to band together in addressing one of the nation’s most important 21st century challenges. However, it is nice to see bipartisan support for education since the futures of our children should not be held victim to partisan politics.

Charter schools, ever since they burst on the scene less than twenty years ago have been thought of as engines of innovation, schools that could be used to discover new best practices that could in turn be shared across school districts. The Race to the Top fund recognizes successful approaches states have taken to increase student achievement and encourages competition between states to keep raising the bar.

This kind of competition sounds pretty healthy if the payoff is more students achieving above state standards. With 1.2 million students dropping out of school each year, unique approaches must be taken.

States begin applying for the competitive grant in the beginning of the year; new ideas will be implemented -- ideas like data systems that track a student’s entire record from kindergarten through high school, and using data to track principal performance. Imagine what could happen if we keep pushing for more of these “unlikely alliances” to solve our nation’s biggest challenges.

-Marvin Smith

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