Monday, March 8, 2010
In July 2009, the Obama Administration committed $5 billion in federal funds to state governments that embrace the administration's ideas for reforming the nation's schools. The money was to finance the Race to the Top Fund which will require states to meet a series of conditions to earn points and boost their chances of receiving additional Department of Education funding. Grants from the fund will be used to encourage education reforms, with a focus on developing tougher academic standards, finding better ways to recruit and keep effective teachers, tracking student performance, and developing plans of action to turn around failing schools.
In establishing the first phase of the competition, the DOE asked competing states to document past education reform successes and outline their plans to extend reforms using college and career-ready standards and assessments, build a workforce of highly effective educators, create educational data systems to support student achievement, and turn around their lowest-performing schools.
The Department has now announced the sixteen finalists in Phase One of the competition. According to an article appearing in today's Philanthropy News Digest,
Chosen from a pool of forty-one candidates, the phase-one finalists are Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee. In mid-March, the finalists will present their proposals to the panel that reviewed the applications. The DOE has not set a predetermined number of winners or a set amount of money to be awarded during phase one, though it is expected that no more than half of the $4 billion being awarded directly to states will be decided in the first phase. The phase-one winners will be announced in April, with applications for phase two due on June 1.
PND quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan as saying:
These states are an example for the country of what is possible when adults come together to do the right thing for children. Everyone that applied for Race to the Top is charting a path for education reform in America. I salute all of the applicants for their hard work, and I encourage non-finalists to reapply for phase two....We are setting a high bar and we anticipate very few winners in phase one. But this isn't just about the money. It's about collaboration among all stakeholders, building a shared agenda, and challenging ourselves to improve the way our students learn. I feel that every state that has applied is a winner — and the biggest winners of all are the students.