Race to the Top

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.

Following three rounds of Race to the Top grants awarded to more than 20 states, the U.S. Department of Education is poised to award an additional $400 million in the next round of RTTT funding. This time, however, the money is being earmarked to local schools districts, not states.  The US DOE has announced it will award 15-25 grants to support school districts in implementing local education reforms that personalize instruction, close achievement gaps, and take advantage of 21st century tools that prepare each student for college and careers. 

In January, the White House released a fact sheet on President Obama’s blueprint for keeping college affordable. Though the release did not garner nearly as much attention as the student loan interest rate hike battle a few months later, the provisions it contained are no less important.

The U.S. Department of Education released progress report information for the 12 states that received Race to the Top funding in 2010.  The specific summaries highlight the reform efforts and initiatives each state is implementing along with challenges along the way.  Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Tennessee developed aggressive plans for statewide reform and secured funding for the work.

Although they were not funded at the level they initially requested, seven states learned in late December that they will receive a $200 million 'runners-up' award.  Many of the reforms which now can be initiated include implementation efforts for the Common Core State Standards, improving data systems, advancing teacher effectiveness, technology supports, and STEM integration.  Those states include Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.