UPDATE [1/27/11]: President Obama discussed the success of Race to the Top in his State of the Union address on January 25th. “Race to the Top in the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than one percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning…and Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that’s more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids.” Since the program’s initiation, it has help 25,000 schools nationwide and 13.6 million students, according to White House statistics.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the Race to the Top program. Which states have already applied for funding? Which states are not going to apply? Is it too political? Is it expecting too much of teachers? What exactly is it? The Race to the Top program is a $4 billion grant program created by the Department of Education and signed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
It was created to encourage states to assess and improve students’ education and performance. It is also intended to enable schools to hire and keep high-quality teachers. States must apply for the funding, and if they qualify, they could receive up to $700 million to improve their schools.
States are evaluated on several criteria. The biggest factor is if they have “a comprehensive and coherent reform agenda.” The quality of the teachers and having common standards are also factors used during the evaluation process.
“Race to the Top’ is absolutely a competition,” said Duncan. “We’re trying to reward excellence.”
Some people are not fans of the program. Many claim it places too much focus on standardized tests to evaluate students’ successes.
“Achievement is much more than a test score,” said Kay Brilliant, a National Education Association official.
However, an amendment to the program took the emphasis off of standardized test scores and placed it on teacher performance.
The application for Race to the Top funding is more than 100 pages long. However, in this tough economic time, many states are willing to invest the time necessary to fill out the forms. The Gates Foundation is also donating money to enable states to prepare their application.
So now you know a little more about the Race to the Top program.