The Race to the Top grant initiative is unlikely to be included in the next federal K-12 education law, but a study by the Government Accountability Office suggests the U.S. Department of Education should give states more support in implementing any future competitive-grant programs.
Race to the Top, which winds down in September after six years, offered $4 billion in grants to states that were willing to embrace education priorities such as school turnarounds, teacher evaluation through student outcomes, rigorous standards and assessments, and comprehensive state data systems.
The GAO found that the Education Department did not provide enough technical assistance, particularly to rural districts, which have had a difficult time sustaining changes under the grants. Both rural and urban districts reported financial stability as one of the most challenging parts of continuing changes in assessment and student data. But rural district leaders were more than twice as likely as urban leaders to say they faced significant challenges in organization and human capital in working to improve standards and assessments.
The GAO calls for the department to provide more individualized help to states, allow more collaboration among grantees, provide professional development to state officials throughout the grant process, and help grantees find good contractors.
A version of this article appeared in the April 22, 2015 edition of Education Week as GAO: More Help Needed for RTT Winners