RTTT as Political Football

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The Star-Ledger has obtained a November 19th email to Ed Commish Lucille Davy from Susan Cole, head of Christie’s education transition team, telling Davy not to apply on Jan. 19th for the first round of Race To The Top.

This is in direct contradiction to what Christie’s transition team spokewoman Maria Comella told The Record last week: “We are extremely disappointed that the Corzine administration was wholly unprepared to meet a January deadline… This will cost the state valuable time.”

In the email Cole tells Davy, “It makes more sense to leave to the new administration the development of the application for the second round of proposals in June of 2010, rather than for you to try to make a January deadline.”

Davy also told the Star-Ledger that the email followed a lengthy phone conversation that reinforced Cole’s instruction that she should put the application aside. To add to the confusion, Christie spokeswoman Maria Comella told the Ledger that Christie and Corzine had a conversation about the application on November 12th in Newark and Christie told Corzine that the DOE should make the January deadline.

So, what’s going on? Botched signals between Christie and Cole? A DOE so dysfunctional and rudderless that no one knows what’s going on? Entrenched opposition to school reform? Take your pick. Following public outrage, mostly directed at Davy, the current DOE now plans to meet the January deadline. Judging by the status of, say, Pennsylvania’s application, ours will be, at best, a rushed and incomplete job, lacking strategic forethought, buy-in from local districts, school boards, and NJEA leadership, and legislative adjustments.

The revelation of Cole’s email resuscitates Davy’s reputation and undermines the veracity of Christie’s education transition team. It does nothing for New Jersey’s chances to win desperately-needed federal funds for school reform. Who wins? Opponents to the agenda of RTTT, i.e., those who deride charter schools, data systems that measure student achievement and inform instruction, and linking teacher performance to compensation. Who loses? Our kids.

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