Race to the Top

Race to the Top

New Teacher Evaluations in D.C. Resulting in Hundreds of Firings

Efforts to improve student learning have been on the American agenda in recent years. Funding and curriculum are constant staples in the ongoing debate but teacher grading is beginning to take the forefront. Impact, a program inspired by President Obama’s grant program Race to the Top, has implemented a new evaluation system for teachers, which has resulted in the firing of hundreds of teachers in dozens of school districts.

The program relies on a combination of student test scores and in class observations. Teachers are evaluated by their own school principal and also by hired “master educators”. In Washington D.C. about 165 teachers have already been fired under the new system and 200 to 600 will be cut in upcoming months. Costly nearly $7 million per year to run, Washington’s dedication to weeding out ineffective teachers doesn’t come cheap.

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Obama Asks for $4.5 Billion Increase in Education Spending

President Barack Obama and Secritary of Education Arne DuncanAs part of the 2012 budget proposal, President Obama is asking for $77.4 billion for  education spending, an increase of $4.5 billion over last year. The funds will go towards teacher training in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math), and towards re-writing the No Child Left Behind bill.

Eighty million dollars will go towards recruiting new teachers in the STEM areas. “Engineering and math, critical thinking, problem solving–these are the kinds of subjects and skills that our kids need to achieve success in the 21st century,” said Obama of the proposal. He is also asking for $900 million for Race to the Top.

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Education Key in Obama’s State of The Union Address

By Jason Knapfel

Last night’s State of the Union address came at a compelling time in President Obama’s first term in office. It comes on the heels of the Arizona tragedy that took the lives of six people and injured 13 others, including congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

This timing has presented an opportunity for the president to try to bring the country a little closer together, which is especially important in these politically divisive times.

President Obama has a little more political capital right now, which could afford him the opportunity to move forward on some initiatives he champions. After his speech in Arizona and some minor signs of economic improvement, the president’s poll numbers are as high as they’ve been since the beginning of his term.

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Race to the Top Awards $3.4 Billion in Grants

race-to-the-topAll of America has been anxiously awaiting the U.S. Education Department’s announcement regarding the winners of the second and final round of the Race to the Top competition.

Thirty-five states and Washington D.C. all submitted applications that were then narrowed down to 19 finalists a couple of months ago.

CNN.com released the news via twitter that the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island are the lucky recipients of the contest prize. Read the rest of this entry »



Obama’s Race to the Top Finalists Announced

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.race to the top

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. Read the rest of this entry »



President Obama Addresses Education Reform at the National Urban League

obama-address-national-urban-leagueIn commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the National Urban League, President Obama gave a speech this morning addressing education reform. He opened his remarks by acknowledging the advances that the National Urban League has forged in its 100-year existence.

He then spoke about the criticisms he has faced for not focusing his energies solely on economic issues. “Education is an economic issue, if not the economic issue of our time,” said Obama, although “we won’t see results overnight.” He said that the current status quo is leading to a decline of the country’s educational standards, and that educational reforms are needed to catch up to other countries. He cited that the US has dropped from the number one country with the most college graduates to number 12.

He discussed the changes needed to make higher education more accessible. He said that the education gap between minority and white students is leading to a widening income gap. Some the reforms have already been made, like making more financial aid available to students in the form of Pell Grants and federal loans. Obama also said that more effort needed to be invested in strengthening community colleges, which he described as “great undervalued assets.”
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War Fund Bill May Not Save Teachers After All

education-funding-may-be-cutDemocrats in the Senate the senate say that the House-approved war-funding bill must cut education funds for the bill to pass, reports CNN. The money includes $5 billion for Pell Grants and $10 billion to prevent teacher lay-offs. Republicans have criticized the later provision as “giveaway” to teacher’s unions.

There’s a push to pass the important bill before the August recess. The Obama Administration does not oppose the education in the war spending bill, but does object to its stipulation that funding be cut from the Race to the Top education program.

Senate Democrats do not have the 60 votes needed to overcome a likely filibuster, are considering scheduling the vote for later this week in order to pressure the House. “The House doesn’t have a choice but to pass the clean Senate bill,” a Senate aide said. “There is no other alternative.”

Read More:

Race to the Top Faces Budget Cut

What is Race to the Top?



Race to the Top Program Faces Budget Cut

race to the topHouse Democrats are threatening to cut $500 million from Obama’s education program Race to the Top, reports The Washington Post. Although the White House says it will veto, Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said the cut is necessary to free up money for a new $10 billion fund to help save more than 100,000 state and municipal education jobs. The House approved the war-funding bill late Thursday,  including another $5 billion for Pell grants for college students in need. The administration supports the $15 billion total in education spending but opposes the provision to cut spending on Race to the Top. Read the rest of this entry »



Colorado’s New Tenure Policy Upsets Teacher Unions

apple for teacherIt just got a little bit harder for teachers to keep their jobs in Colorado. A new change to the state’s legislature requires teachers to be evaluated each year, and half of their rating will be based on whether or not their students made progress during the school year.

As for the new teachers, they will have to show they’ve improved their student’s achievement for three consecutive years to earn tenure.

Colorado’s teacher unions, who have defended the previous tenure policy for several years, are up in arms about the new one, while education advocates believe it is a step in the right direction. The tenure policy will make it easier to get rid of mediocre or even incapable teachers.

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What is the Race to the Top Fund?

department of education

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.

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