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“Personalized Learning,” Race To The Top & Putting Even More Lipstick On A Pig


The U.S. Department of Education just released their final rules for the Race To The Top competition for districts (before now, it’s only been available to states).

Education Week has a good summary, and you can go to the source at various links:

The Department’s main page for the Race To The Top District program

Their Executive Summary of the rules

The rules themselves

I’ve previously posted about their plans to put lipstick on a pig in this program by including some decent wording about requiring schools to connect more with community groups, while retaining it laser-like focus on evaluating everything and everybody based on increased standardized test scores.

They continue in this vein by making “personalized learning” a big requirement for the program, and they included a lot of good phrases about it. However, despite all the “lipstick,” it all comes down to a pig, the standardized test results.

Justin Reich described the issue of personalized learning more eloquently than I could over at Education Week:

For some, personalization means using technology to individually diagnose student competencies on standardized tests and then apply algorithms to adaptively deliver appropriately challenging content to each student to help them perform better on those tests….

For some, personalization means that technology opens a world of information and expertise to every student, empowers students as explorers and creators, and lets them follow their interests and passions in diverse directions…

It’s pretty clear which road Race To The Top is taking….

I’m adding this post to The Best Resources On “Race To The Top.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Pingback: RTTT: More Lipstick on a Pig? « Diane Ravitch's blog

  2. Here is one–of my many–messages to President Obama:

    Dear President Obama,
    Please read:
    and my response, below. I would love to donate money to your campaign but need to know you will change course on your devastating educational policies.
    There are many more than 8 problems with the CCSS. But here’s 8 more on the ELA CCSS: 1. The elementary text exemplars are primarily by and about White people, thus privileging White children and marginalizing children of color. 2. The word “analysis” appears 94 times; the word emotion twice in a clinical sort of way. For children to care about “facts,” their emotions have to be engaged. 3. The CCSS eliminates reading for pleasure and choice; the city of Shenzen, China–a city of 15 million–emphasizes free reading and has the highest university pass rate in the country. The Chinese government is, wisely, encouraging the rest of China to follow Shenzen’s lead; the CCSS are leading us down the opposite path. 4. Music is mentioned once, the visual arts not at all. “Acting out” is okay for enacting vocabulary words. Yet, the arts are powerful ways to foster literacy; the CCSS leave out a V-8 engine for literacy in leaving out the arts. 5. Informational text is privileged, with the expectation that by the secondary grades the fare will be 75% informational, 25% literary. Yet, Adam Jones’s interviews with 57 genocide scholars and human rights activists show that their most powerful experiences were with 75% arts and literary texts, 25% “informational” texts–the exact opposite of the CCSS. Albert Einstein would tell you to read children more fairy tales; Charles Darwin would tell you to read them more poetry (email me for references). 6. Efferent reading (what you carry off, like when you read the directions for your new cell phone) is privileged over aesthetic reading (when you cannot put down a book). In the CCSS “aesthetics” are not mentioned until 11th grade. Children need aesthetic experiences long before that. The middle and upper classes will be able to get aesthetic experiences for their children outside of school. 7. “Close reading”–all 13 years–will bore children to death. Children need multiple approaches to text; the CCSS turns children into “information processors.” 8. Now that 45 states were blackmailed into accepting the CCSS–if they were to get any RTTP money–they will pay billions for new “tests,” which will be deeply, deeply flawed because the CCSS are deeply, deeply flawed.

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