The U.S. Chamber of Commerce just convened a group of prominent people in the education world to take a comprehensive look at the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative and its impact on school reform around the country.

Race to the Top, the administration’s chief education initiative, is a competition that required states to apply for a share of a total of about $4 billion by promising to implement school reforms that were in part focused on the (unfortunate) primacy of standardized testing as the basis of evaluating schools, students, teachers and principals.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia have won money in two competitive Race rounds, and this year, $200 million will be divided to winners in the Race’s Early Learning Challenge. (I will take the time to note that the release issued by the Chamber of Commerce — the world’s largest business federation — that announced Friday’s gathering said that 12 states had won Race to the Top money, lumping the District in with other states, when, of course, it is but a city that is too often compared, unfairly, to states. End of digression.)

Here’s a list of people who were listed as speakers at the Friday event, on the chamber’s website:

Charles Barone, Director of Federal Policy, Democrats for Education Reform

Steven Brill, Author, Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools (who served as moderator)

Christopher T. Cross, Partner, Cross & Joftus

Daniel Cruce, Deputy Secretary and Chief of Staff, Delaware Department of Education

Shelby Dietz, Research Associate, Center on Education Policy

Pascal (Pat) D. Forgione Jr. Ph.D., Distinguished Presidential Scholar and Executive Director, Center for K-12 Assessment and Performance Management

Paul Pastorek, Former Louisiana State Superintendent of Education & Member Emeritus, Chiefs for Change

Michael J. Petrilli, Executive Vice President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute

Kate Walsh, President, National Council on Teacher Quality

Ann Whalen, Director, Policy and Program Implementation, Implementation and Support Unit, U.S. Department of Education

Cheryl Oldham, Vice President and Executive Director, Institute for a Competitive Workforce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Accomplished people, all of them.

But do they represent the wide range of thought that exists in the world of education about Race to the Top?

You know the answer is no.

Another omission all too common in discussions about school reform in Washington is anybody who has anything to do with teaching children on a daily basis. Teachers, for example, and principals.

But why ask them anything about school reform? What could people who work with kids every day know about what works and what doesn’t in reforming schools?

Certainly nothing some school reformers are willing to hear.


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