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Volume 26, Number 1
January/February 2010

Incent This!

Competition drives federal ed reforms at every level


When Arne Duncan was Chicago schools chief, he welcomed a research project that paid students to earn good grades, believing that monetary incentives would keep teens in school.

Now as U.S. Secretary of Education, Duncan has deployed monetary incentives on a broader scale, enticing states with the $4.3 billion Race to the Top program while announcing that incentives will play a major role in his plan to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Incentives pop up everywhere in Duncan’s Department of Education. There’s $350 million to help states develop common standards in math and English, which Duncan says will align standards nationwide and help focus teaching on essential skills that students need to master. There’s incentive money for teacher merit-pay systems, as well as the proposed Early Learning Challenge Fund to increase access and quality of preK education, which includes $9.3 billion available in competitive grants over the next decade.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.