When I talked to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan earlier this week about the transition in his chief of staff post, he talked about the broader shift in the department: from policy formation to policy implementation.
Designing and executing the competitions around Race to the Top and the Investing in Innovation Fund are only a small part of the battle for the department as it pursues its reform agenda. Next comes implementation. States and i3 winners must make these reforms happen, and the department must hold them accountable.
To that end, the department needs some outside help.
For Race to the Top, the department wants a contractor to help build a “technical assistance network” for the states that win these grants. I am not an expert in federal procurement, but it looks like the department is targeting specific consulting firms for this work, such as Westat, American Institutes for Research, and KPMG. The contractor will work with individual states to implement their reform plans, and build a network to share best practices and lessons learned across all states. And, the contractor is supposed to ensure an efficient and transparent use of funds. This sounds like a big job!
It also looks like the Institute of Education Sciences, the department’s research arm, is doing research on whether there’s capacity in the small business community for a contract that would help IES conduct “impact evaluations” of Race to the Top and School Improvement Grants. The department is also gearing up to hire contractors in general to help evaluate this $650 million i3 grant program. IES will play a big role in evaluating stimulus-related reforms.
And finally, the department is also working on getting a contractor to provide technical assistance, paid for through the economic-stimulus package, for winners of Teacher Incentive Fund grants, which are used to help design performance-based compensation systems for teachers.