Race To The Top Backgrounder
Preceding Announcement of Round 2 finalists
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be announcing the Round 2 Race to the Top finalists during a speech he is giving today at the National Press Club entitled "The Quiet Revolution." The speech begins at 12:30, and you can watch it online: here. http://press.org/events/npc-luncheon-secretary-arne-duncan
Race to the Top (RttT) has effected more positive change in state and local education laws and policies than any other federal education program in history.
NCLB was akin to an IBM PC circa 1995 - uniform, powerful, but clunky. Race to the Top is a 2010 iPad - a flexible platform that provides policymakers with dynamic tools to create and adopt innovative apps and nimbly customize them to their specific needs.
It has mobilized policy-makers, principals and teachers to create the conditions that are needed to help schools meet high standards of excellence, and it has unleashed waves of creativity to reach that goal. Each state has taken its own unique route, yet the objective is common.
[See one-pager (attached) for statistics on states that have implemented new policies as part of the RttT process, and quotes (attached) from educators and advocates]
While not all states enacted the big changes we saw in states like Colorado, New York, Louisiana, and Rhode Island, the gains are nonetheless significant. Some states enacted solid reforms that are not revolutionary but take critical steps toward better teacher training and learning. Almost every state, with just a few exceptions, began to re-examine its education policies.
That process is ongoing and will not end with the announcement of the Round 2 finalists today or with the announcement of Round 2 winners in September. States and districts, teachers and parents, are still learning from each other about what's possible, from both a political and policy perspective.
Our education system didn't break overnight, and it will take more than one federal program and more than one 4-year grant cycle to fix it. What is indisputable, however, is that Race to the Top has put wind in the sails of the education reform movement and, in just a year and a half, has accelerated the pace of change more than any other past federal effort and much more than most of us dreamed possible.
Some examples of actions states took on RttT in Round 2:
Arizona: It may not be enough to get the state to the finalist level in Round 2 but Arizona, which scored dead last in Round 1, came back with two significant actions in response to criticisms of inadequate education funding and weak policies: 1) On May 10th the Governor signed into law SB 1040 after the state legislature approved a new framework for teacher and principal evaluation based in part on student academic progress; 2) On May 18th , Arizona voters passed Proposition 100, a one cent sales tax increase, preventing $555 million in funding cuts to public schools.
George Banning canvasses for charter school advocates in Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Colorado: Passage of Senator Mike Johnston's (D-Denver) teacher evaluation and tenure reform bill (SB 191) on the last day of Colorado's legislative session in May was largely seen as consecutive years could have tenure suspended. Supporters included the state NAACP, Stand for Children, DFER-Colorado, the American Federation of Teachers, Denver Chamber of Commerce, A+ Denver, and Padres & Jóvenes Unidos.
Connecticut: Connecticut, which ranked 25th in Round 1, took a significant step forward on school reform on May 5th, when it passed SB 438 which will require every district to evaluate teachers based on their students' achievement; establish a data system that links students to their teachers and teachers to their training programs; create new pathways for talented classroom teachers to become principals; and eliminate caps on the number of seats allowed in high-performing public charter schools.
Florida: In Florida, a deal between Governor Crist and teachers' unions on a new teacher evaluation and merit pay system was announced on May 5th, just weeks after the governor's veto on April 15th of the legislature's own evaluation and tenure reform bill. The plan, like the vetoed bill, would base at least 50 percent of teacher evaluations on student achievement growth, phased in over several years and would tie teacher pay, in part, to those evaluations.
Illinois: The state passed a new law on May 28th that strengthens standards for certification of principals and principal preparation programs. This comes on top of a strong Round 1 application with new and robust teacher evaluation and charter school policies, which earned the state 5th place. Despite not weakening its application in between Round 1 and 2, the state garnered the support of 222 additional school districts, bringing the total to 590.
New York: On May 28th, just days before the June 1st filing deadline, the state passed three new laws: 1) a new evaluation system designed to measure teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance, including measures of student achievement; 2) a doubling of the cap on public charter schools from 200 to 460, while at the same time setting tougher accountability criteria; 3) a new state longitudinal, comprehensive data system.
New York is home to some of the best public charter schools in the nation, such as Harlem Success Academy (6,000 students on waiting lists) which research shows is closing achievement gaps with districts like Scarsdale without "creaming" the best students, and Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone, which is a national model for a "wraparound," neighborhood-centered approach to education and social services.
Oklahoma: The state passed strong legislation right before the June 1 deadline that requires districts to restructure the most chronically low-performing schools and gives local school boards more autonomy and power to do so.
Rhode Island: On June 10th the state set into law a new formula that will more equitably dole out money to public schools based on the number of poor students enrolled. The lack of such a formula was a key reason Rhode Island lost points in Round 1. The Ocean State passed a number of key policy reforms prior to Round 1.
Race to the Top
By the Numbers
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) allotted $4.35 billion in the federal Race to the Top grant competition. Only 2 states - Delaware ($100 million) and Tennessee ($500 million – received grants in Round 1.
41 states, including the District of Columbia, applied to Round 1 of Race to the Top.
36 states, including the District of Columbia, applied to Round 2 of Race to the Top.
Only 4 states sat out both rounds of the federal competition: Texas, Alaska, North Dakota and Vermont.
23 states have passed reform laws in hopes of getting a piece of the prize money.
Standards and Assessments
48 states have signed on to the Common Core Standards Initiatives.
Three consortia are competing for the $350 million in Race to the Top funding to develop new tests tied to college and career ready standards that move beyond the crude "fill-in-the-bubble" approaches most states use now.
26 states have joined together to create the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC or Partnership).
The 26 PARCC states educate over 60 percent of the K-12 students in the United States
Public Charter Schools
At least 13 states – Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Utah – have altered laws or policies to create or expand the number of public charter schools.
5 of the 6 states that had "firewalls" barring student achievement data from being used in teacher evaluations repealed those laws: California, Wisconsin, Nevada, Maine, and Indiana. (New York simply let its law expire.)
At least 11 states – Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee – have enacted legislation that requires student achievement data to be used in teacher evaluation or tenure decisions.
Quotes on Race to the Top
"The ideas have gained currency at the national level …What was seen as bold is now reform, not revolution." - Former Baltimore mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, dean of Howard University's law school, commenting on how the DC contract was part of Race to the Top zeitgeist, June 3, 2010
"As Superintendent of the largest school district in California, Race to the Top represents an opportunity for California to demonstrate true leadership and a commitment to working collaboratively in the interest of our students." - Ramon C. Cortines, superintendent, Los Angeles Unified School District, June 1, 2010
"There are strong indications that Race to the Top is headed in the right direction. First, and perhaps most important, the number of states that have applied or expressed their intention to apply suggests that we have taken the first steps toward a national education policy." - Michael L. Lomax, president and CEO, United Negro College Fund, March 29, 2010
"At a time when our schools are squeezed for money in this difficult economy, this is a remarkable opportunity to help students and teachers by bringing innovative and proven approaches into classrooms. The Department of Education has taken a significant step in giving educators the tools they need to address some of the most serious issues facing schools today." - Attorney Matthew Cregor, Southern Poverty Law SPLC's website, November 24, 2009
"Race to the Top supports innovation, and too many of our schools are left without the resources needed to implement solid change, especially in our math and science programs." - Phil Brockman, president, Association of Washington School Principals, June 1, 2010
"We need to have our parents and communities rally around their schools, and spread the word across Florida that Race to the Top can provide our schools with additional dollars that can have a lasting impact on our children's learning environment and their future in a global world." - Karen Brown, president, Florida Parent Teacher Association, January 8, 2010
"We've been very supportive of the [RttT] legislation from beginning. We think it brought real important discussions around key education reforms that we've been advocating for many years... We think it's the right thing to do… We think it's a good thing for California." - Debbie Look, director of legislation, California State PTA, (in a news broadcast for Capital Public Radio in Sacramento), January 12, 2010
"I think this is bold, I think this is needed, I think this is something we have long advocated for - and so the California NAACP applauds the Governor and President Obama for taking the action necessary for the children by turning around these failing schools." – Alice A. Huffman, President, California State Conference of the NAACP, August 24th, 2009