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Here’s an interesting newsflash from the federal school reform debate that has local echoes. Education Week is blogging that several leading civil rights groups are criticizing the Obama Administration take on school reform, including the Race to the Top competition between states for stimulus money:

The groups that signed on to the framework want (Education Secretary Arne) Duncan to dial back his enthusiasm for and “extensive reliance” on charter schools as a solution for turning around persistently struggling schools in urban areas. They also object to core components of his four models for turning around the nation’s worst schools, saying that school closure and wholesale changes in school staff should only be used as a last resort. And they take sharp issue with the Race to the Top program, declaring that a reliance on competitive funding and hand-picking winners means the majority of low-income and minority kids, who may reside in the losing states, will not benefit from additional federal funds.

The Washington Post also offers another blogger’s take.

Why does this matter here in San Diego? Well, these objections sound an awful lot like the complaints that San Diego Unified has had about how the Obama Administration is handling school reform.

The school district didn’t join the California bid for Race to the Top. And its school board President Richard Barrera has been deeply critical of the same four models for school turnarounds that the civil rights groups questioned.

“This is why you don’t want people in state or federal government making decisions about the fates of neighborhood schools,” said Richard Barrera, president of the San Diego Unified school board. “It’s incredibly prescriptive about what schools can do. That would be understandable — if any of these strategies were proven to work.”

— EMILY ALPERT

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