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.
School budgets have been stretched tight with the nation’s recent economic recession. Last year in my hometown, Wichita, KS, several schools were forced to give up yearly field trips. And this year, the school district is proposing to do away with driver’s education. Hopefully with Obama’s Race to the Top competition, some states will be able to lessen this financial strain.
As of July 27, eighteen states and the District of Columbia could win part of the $3.4 billion in education grants to assist in an overhaul of education policies.
In this second round of the competition, federal officials say they anticipate 10 to 15 winners that will receive federal financing. The winning states will be revealed in September.
Here are the 19 finalists: Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.
In order to win, states must show educational innovation and reform, with each state being judged on a scale of zero to 500. Judges are looking for states with schools that show support for charter schools, stress student performance in teacher evaluations and reach out to poorly performing schools. But one of the largest deciding factors in the competition is whether or not the state’s schools put great emphasis on teacher quality.
“We want to change the accountability system and stop labeling so many schools as failures,” said Arne Duncan, the secretary of education. “We want to recognize and reward high-achieving and high-growth schools, offering them the carrots and incentives that we know drive reform and progress.”
The first round of the competition, in March, there were only two winners out of the 16 finalists. Tennessee won $500 million; Delaware won $100 million.