Education Funding

Grant Contest to Aid High Schools Still Work in Progress

By Alyson Klein — February 26, 2013 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Proponents of better aligning high school improvement, postsecondary education, and the workforce have high hopes for President Barack Obama’s recent proposal to create a Race to the Top-style competitive-grant program specifically for secondary education.

But the plan, which still needs to be fleshed out by the administration, could face long odds in a Congress that’s looking to cut spending. The president may also have a tough time winning over lawmakers and education advocates weary of his penchant for using competitive grants, rather than formula funding that goes out to all school districts, to advance his K-12 agenda.

Mr. Obama in his Feb. 12 State of the Union speech floated the idea of offering a new competitive-grant program for high school improvement that could help schools partner with businesses and postsecondary institutions. He has yet to put a price tag on the program or offer specifics, such as how large grants would be and for how many years. White House aides said such details would likely be released along with the president’s budget plan in the coming weeks.

The new program could take the Obama administration—which has largely focused so far on distinctly K-12 improvement efforts, such as revamping teacher evaluation—into a relatively untouched corner of federal policy, said Phillip Lovell, the vice president for advocacy at the Alliance for Excellent Education. The Washington-based group pushes for improvements to secondary schools.

High school graduation rates have been steadily rising, but there’s a “missing middle” when it comes to the connections between postsecondary education and the workplace, Mr. Lovell said.

“No one really owns that space,” he said.

Workplace Readiness

The proposed high school competitive grant program could help schools better align the high school curriculum with the demands of postsecondary education and employment, said Roberto Rodriguez, who serves on the White House Domestic Policy Council as a special assistant for education.

It would have a particular focus on the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Schools could also be encouraged to use the grants for advising to help students envision what they might want to do with their education.

The grants would likely be for school districts—the proposal is not aimed at making big changes at the state-policy level, as have been previous iterations of the administration’s signature competitive-grant program, Race to the Top, Mr. Rodriguez said.

The program would likely be separate from the $1 billion career and technical education program, Mr. Rodriguez said, but would be in line with a blueprint for revamping the proposal last year by the administration to let districts share career and technical education dollars with postsecondary institutions and businesses, in order to improve collaboration by all those sectors.

The administration has also floated a similar, $8 billion to help community colleges partner with businesses to revamp their own training programs. That proposal was part of the president’s budget plan for fiscal year 2013 and has yet to advance in Congress.

Career Connections

Andrew Rothstein, the special adviser to the National Academy Foundation in New York City, which operates more than 500 “career academies” across the country that offer students opportunities to gain hands-on workplace experience, sees a lot of potential in the high school improvement competition.

Like President Obama, who referred to German career-readiness programs in his speech to Congress, Mr. Rothstein framed the idea as a way to help the United States better compete with other countries economically.

Career education “used to be thought of just for students who aren’t college-bound, and what we’re saying [now] is everybody needs this,” Mr. Rothstein said. “Apprenticeship models are heavily used overseas and rarely used here for high-end positions.”

He suggested that the administration encourage grantees to assess students on career readiness or give them credit for mastering certain job-related skills, such as time management and dressing appropriately for the workplace.

Students from low-income communities aren’t always exposed to the demands of workplace culture at home or in school, he said.

“They don’t meet professionals who are earning well—they’re isolated from that world,” he said.

The administration must also think through how best to ensure that rural districts have access to such programs, Mr. Rothstein said.

A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 2013 edition of Education Week as Federal Grant Contest to Aid High Schools Still Work in Progress

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Your Questions on the Science of Reading, Answered
Dive into the Science of Reading with K-12 leaders. Discover strategies, policy insights, and more in our webinar.
Content provided by Otus
Mathematics Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Breaking the Cycle: How Districts are Turning around Dismal Math Scores
Math myth: Students just aren't good at it? Join us & learn how districts are boosting math scores.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How To Tackle The Biggest Hurdles To Effective Tutoring
Learn how districts overcome the three biggest challenges to implementing high-impact tutoring with fidelity: time, talent, and funding.
Content provided by Saga Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding Education Dept. Sees Small Cut in Funding Package That Averted Government Shutdown
The Education Department will see a reduction even as the funding package provides for small increases to key K-12 programs.
3 min read
President Joe Biden delivers a speech about healthcare at an event in Raleigh, N.C., on March 26, 2024.
President Joe Biden delivers a speech about health care at an event in Raleigh, N.C., on March 26. Biden signed a funding package into law over the weekend that keeps the federal government open through September but includes a slight decrease in the Education Department's budget.
Matt Kelley/AP
Education Funding Biden's Budget Proposes Smaller Bump to Education Spending
The president requested increases to Title I and IDEA, and funding to expand preschool access in his 2025 budget proposal.
7 min read
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on lowering prices for American families during an event at the YMCA Allard Center on March 11, 2024, in Goffstown, N.H.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on lowering prices for American families during an event at the YMCA Allard Center on March 11, 2024, in Goffstown, N.H. Biden's administration released its 2025 budget proposal, which includes a modest spending increase for the Education Department.
Evan Vucci/AP
Education Funding States Are Pulling Back on K-12 Spending. How Hard Will Schools Get Hit?
Some states are trimming education investments as financial forecasts suggest boom times may be over.
6 min read
Collage illustration of California state house and U.S. currency background.
F. Sheehan for Education Week / Getty
Education Funding Using AI to Guide School Funding: 4 Takeaways
One state is using AI to help guide school funding decisions. Will others follow?
5 min read
 Illustration of a robot hand drawing a graph line leading to budget and finalcial spending.
iStock/Getty