Education reformers entered the national Race to the Top grant competition enthused and hopeful that California would be among the winners.
Alas, the state wasn't among the finalists, and ranked 27th in the scoring among the 41 states that applied.
So now, reformers have swung the other direction, falling into discouragement and resignation – and questioning whether the state should even apply in the next round, with applications due in June.
Meanwhile, some of those who opposed the Race to the Top "four pillars" approach – high-quality standards and assessments, using data to improve instruction, measuring teacher and principal effectiveness and turning around the lowest-achieving schools – are gloating at California's failure. Among those are the teachers union at one end of the spectrum and, at the other, libertarians who reject federal involvement in public education.
There is little reason to gloat. California and much of the rest of the country confront a crisis of public education, so it is only appropriate the federal government creates financial incentives for reform. Race to the Top proved those incentives, with the right priorities. Rather than give up, reformers need to learn from the outcome of the application process, which proved useful in exposing the state's strengths and weaknesses.
To read the complete editorial, visit www.sacbee.com.