Monday, July 19, 2010

Announcing "Race to the Top": the reality show

Inspired by a recent news account of the firing of a popular principal, the US Department of Education has announced a new reality show, to be co-produced by the Gates Foundation and aired this fall on MSNBC, called “Race to the Top.”

Each week will feature three inner-city public schools, with large numbers of immigrant, poor, homeless and/or special education students.

These three schools will then compete before a panel of judges, who will decide whether the principal should be fired and the school forced to launch a radical "transformation" involving experimental reform strategies; or the principal and half the teaching staff will be fired; or the entire staff will be fired and the building turned over to a charter school.

The winners will receive a share of funding from the federal program called “School Improvement Grants.”

The panel of judges will include Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, former GE CEO Jack Welch, a representative from the charter school industry, and, to add some star power, model Heidi Klum, host of “Project Runway,” and Simon Cowell, who left “American Idol” this year.

The TV audience will also have a chance to vote on who they would like to win, although the judges will make the final decision.

There was a bidding war among media companies to win the rights to broadcast the show, and in an amazing coincidence, MSNBC was the highest bidder. MSNBC is partly owned by Microsoft, which was founded by Bill Gates. In another complete coincidence, the US Department of Education has largely adopted the education agenda of the Gates Foundation.

As Secretary Duncan explained, “It’s time that we engaged the public in the discussion of education reform, as our critics have pointed out, and this is the best way to do it!”

Said Bill Gates, co-chair of the board of the Gates Foundation along with his wife Melinda, and the nation’s wealthiest man, “As always, innovation has been the driving force behind our efforts at Microsoft and our foundation. We will take that innovation forward in co-producing this new TV show, and we expect it to have great ratings.”


Gary Babad said...

Brilliant, Leonie, I can't wait for the premiere!

And in an update, GBN News has learned that as a first ever collaboration, Fox News has joined MSNBC in this venture. The two networks, usually fierce competitors, seem to have finally found common ground. Jack Welch has called the collaboration, "The most creative destruction ever."

NYC Educator said...

Great piece, Leonie. You've captured the mood perfectly.