Race-to-the-Top states making progress, more work needed, DOE reports
Halfway into the four-year, $4 billion, Race to the Top (RTTT) initiative to encourage states to redesign public schools, the U.S. Department of Education is reporting RTTT winners are making progress toward their goals. Yet the Department's report, released Friday, reveals some target areas that RTTT winners are struggling to meet: namely, implementing evaluation systems for teachers and school leaders and creating sophisticated data systems.
“Race to the Top has sparked dramatic changes, and in only the second year of the program we’re seeing those results reach the classroom,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a news release. “Most states have made tremendous strides and met aggressive timelines on work that has the potential to transform public education for years to come. Comprehensive education reform isn’t easy, and a few states have faced major challenges in implementing their plans. As we reach the halfway point, we need to see every state show results.”
The Department reports states reached a number of benchmarks in year two, as they implemented plans built around RTTT’s four assurance areas: implementing college- and career-ready standards and assessments, building robust data systems to improve instruction, supporting great teachers and school leaders, and turning around persistently low-performing schools. According to the Department, some states made strategic investments to develop tools and resources for educators, students and parents; launch state-level support networks; or develop additional science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) schools or programs. Others launched new pipelines for teachers and leaders, supported key efforts to turn around low-performing schools, or implemented teacher and principal evaluations to better support educators and inform continuous improvement.
The DOE has awarded funding to the District of Columbia and the following states: Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.
Each state’s work is measured against its own plan and progress in year two of its Race to the Top grant. Hawaii, for instance, which was placed on “high-risk status” in 2011 is now making “tremendous progress,” according to the DOE, although it remains on high-risk since it lacks a teacher contract that must be in place before the teacher-evaluation system can be implemented. The report states, “While (Hawaii) has experienced significant setbacks in its teacher and leader work in Year 2, (it) has worked to get most of its projects back on track.” It adds, “It continues to be a significant concern that the State does not have authority to execute against the entire scope of impacts of its educator evaluation system, and that the State has yet to pilot a principal evaluation system.”
In addition, the year-two report concludes Georgia and Maryland have not made enough progress implementing teacher evaluation systems, and says the District of Columbia continued to experience delays to support its lowest-achieving schools. The report says the DC public school system has used grant funding to support only one of 13 persistently low-achieving schools.
Last year, the Department launched the first Race to the Top-District program, which will fund 16 applicants – representing 55 school districts across 11 states and D.C. – with close to $400 million to support locally developed plans that will prepare every student to succeed in college and their careers. The Department’s fiscal year 2013 budget requested an additional $850 million for the Race to the Top program to address the unmet demand of states and districts that have demonstrated a commitment to aggressive and comprehensive education reform.