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This is probably not a big surprise, but San Diego Unified is not going to take part in the California application for the second round of Race to the Top, a competition for more federal money for schools.

San Diego Unified was the biggest California school district to sit out the first round, saying it had too little information about what reforms would be demanded of it if it signed on. That decision angered some community groups and parents who said it had passed up a chance for money and change.

The competition pits states against each other to convince the federal government that their innovations and reforms are worth investing in. It also prizes school systems that link teacher evaluation to student test scores, something that doesn’t fly with most members of the San Diego school board. For some background on the federal competition, check out this New York Times Magazine article about it. 

California didn’t win money the first time around anyway, so San Diego Unified didn’t lose out on any cash. The second time around, California is taking a different tack. It hopes to win up to $700 million by submitting an application from a core group of school districts that agreed to reforms such as:

  • Distributing effective teachers more equitably in disadvantaged schools and hard-to-staff subjects
  • Turning around their lowest performing schools through dramatic measures such as changing into a charter school or replacing the principal
  • Using data on student achievement to improve instruction

San Diego Unified spokesman Bernie Rhinerson said the same reasons that kept the school district from pursuing Race to the Top are even more pressing this time: the requirements are too limiting and the process is rushed. The school board has not voted formally on it, but Rhinerson said there was little interest in the idea.

It isn’t the only educational group with doubts: The California County Superintendents Educational Services Association sent out an e-mail saying that with a short timeline, little detail about what resources schools would get to make reforms and “the total lack of state policy direction,” they wouldn’t recommend that school districts sign on. San Diego County Superintendent Randy Ward forwarded that e-mail to superintendents across San Diego County, writing simply that he agreed.

What do you think? Let’s get a discussion started here on the blog. Was San Diego Unified right to say no to Race to the Top — again?

— EMILY ALPERT

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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