Race to the TopSummary
FYI: Further Reading
After the No Child Left Behind act of 2001, the United States public school system underwent a vast change directed to test based reform. In late 2009, the Obama administration introduced the Race to The Top program, an education initiative designed to bolster federally mandated school improvement. The fund totaled $4 billion dollars, the highest amount of tax dollars ever allocated to school reform. The money was allocated in two rounds: once in April 2010 and once in August 2010. States that received the money provided comprehensive plans to reshape their school systems. The plans included data that reflected student achievement, turnarounds in failing in schools and improved teaching rating systems.
The U.S. Department of Education asked states to focus their efforts on these core issues:
- Standardized assessments aimed at preparing students for college, the workforce and the new global economy.
- Creating and maintaining data sets that would record student achievement and help teachers and principals alter their methods accordingly.
- The recruitment of young, eligible teaching and administrative candidates.
- Repairing failing schools.
In order to compete, many states hired corporate consulting firms to advise them on their reform plans. Some opponents to the overhaul believed the scope of Race to The Top to be limited and only helpful to those states with relatively sufficient resources.
The Obama administration worked closely with teachers’ unions and education policy officials to amend the competition. However, the program still focused highly on charter schools, standardized teacher evaluations, merit-pay systems and a large number of firings in failing school districts. These characteristics were highly contentious and subject to much political debate. Applications to the program were long and arduous and required signatures from local school leaders. In some states, nearly 1,000 signees had to approve the proposal.
The scoring rubric for the competition was as follows:
Out of a possible 500 points (a perfect score):
125 points measured: viability of plan for change
70 points measured: enacting higher testing standards
47 points measured: technological advances in tracking students
138 points measured: recruitment and certification of qualified teachers
50 points measured: the effectiveness of school turnarounds
30 points measured: miscellaneous changes
40 pointes measured: initiation of charter schools
On March 4, 2010, the Education Department announced the 16 first-round finalists: New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee. Fourteen of these states (exclusion: South Carolina and Delaware) received grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.
Delaware and Tennessee edged out the competition to win $100 million and $500 million respectively. The two states were cited for their comprehensive reform packages and statewide commitment via legislation that was passed through state assemblies to support the effort,
In late August 2010, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island were named the second round winners.
Commensurate with their student populations, New York and Florida each won $700 million; Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio won $400 million; Massachusetts and Maryland won $250 million; and Rhode Island and the District of Columbia won $75 million.
FYI: Further Reading
- A series of blog posts on Race to The Top on the Department of Education's website.
- Race to the Top fact sheet from the White House.
- The Education Trust is a national nonprofit organization which advocates for education policy on the federal level and provides aid to schools on the local level.
- The Alliance for Excellent Education is a national policy and advocacy organization that focuses on high school policies to increase graduation rates.
- The National Education Association responds to Race, noting admirable goals and areas in which they belive the fund could be improved.
- Education.com deconstructs the policy to take an in depth look at both sides.