Our Impact

How Third Way Preserved Groundbreaking K-12 Education Reform

In July 2009, President Barack Obama gave a speech outlining Race to the Top, his plan to implement the most ambitious K-12 education reform in a generation. That speech spurred a transformation of the American educational system that Third Way strongly supported from the beginning. It benefited all students, especially disadvantaged students and those of color.

But in January 2015, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Education Committee released a draft bill aimed at gutting those reforms and rolling back nearly a decade of progress. By including provisions that he thought would attract a group of Senate Democratic moderates, he had a real shot at rallying up just enough votes to pass. 

At that point, the battle looked lost.

But Third Way stepped into the breach to save these groundbreaking reforms. We organized a bipartisan coalition, armed them with a bold set of principles and ideas to rally around, and persuaded them to lead the fight to preserve the core of Race to the
Top. We gave them the data and messaging they needed to make their case, and we shredded the arguments of those seeking to dismantle the progress we had made on reform. For example, we argued that a proposal to test students only once every few years would make it harder to hold failing teachers accountable. That provision didn’t even come up for a vote after our Democratic allies in Congress rallied publicly around the need to maintain annual testing.

Not a single one of our Senate allies backed the Republicans’ proposal, forcing the GOP to go back to the drawing board and cooperate on a bipartisan bill. In the end, we preserved most of Race to the Top’s best elements—a huge victory for for education reform and for America’s most vulnerable children.

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Third Way is a non-profit organization. Our policy innovations, rigorous research, and issue campaigns are made possible by the sustained engagement and generous contributions of our supporters. For more information on how to support the work of Third Way, please contact:

Emily Sternfeld
Vice President of Development and External Affairs
(202) 384 1700
[email protected]


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