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Education Funding

New Analysis of States’ Race to the Top Work Released by Ed. Department

By Andrew Ujifusa — May 23, 2016 2 min read
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With the crush of news about the Every Student Succeeds Act, Race to the Top may not be as high-profile as it once was—but there are lessons states can learn from their work in the competitive-grant program, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Education last week.

States reported success in helping to create new data systems and regional resource centers, but sometimes struggled to support activities related to curriculum and classroom resources.

The report covers the 2013-14 school year in seven states that won “Phase 3" Race to the Top grants in December 2011: Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The states received a total of $200 million. In addition to “comprehensive reform efforts,” these Phase 3 grants also put an emphasis on states’ science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs.

All seven of the states that won Phase 3 grants were finalists for the first two phases of grant distributions, which under Race to the Top totaled $4.3 billion. The department had previously issued reports on the first two years of Race to the Top work in these seven states. These grants are different than the money distributed by the Education Department under the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge.

So what are some highlights from the report?

  • Arizona’s work to provide oversight of local school districts through Regional Centers received praise from the Education Department, and state leaders held monthly meetings to ensure that various projects matched state goals. But the state did not complete a process to vet instructional materials to ensure that they were aligned to Arizona’s content standards. (In fact, the state’s relationship with the Common Core State Standards generally speaking has been rocky.) The state received a $25 million grant.
  • In Colorado, which received $18 million, the department’s report said the state expanded its resource bank for both standards and teacher-evaluation systems. It also piloted a program to display comprehensive information about several districts. And it provided opportunities for districts to work with local STEM-related businesses to provide students with real-life experiences in the various fields, and extended STEM-related grants to districts for two years instead of initiating a new round after just one year. However, the state made slower-than-expected progress in rolling out resources for things like sample curricula and performance assessments.
  • Pennsylvania received $41 million, and worked to increase monitoring of districts at the state level, help schools’ transition to the state’s standards (the common core), and improve student achievement in STEM-related courses. But at the end of three years, the state reported spending less than half its Race to the Top funds (49 percent), even though the grant period had only one year left to go. The state cited delays in several project as the reason for the relatively low proportion of money spent.

Late last year, the department released a lengthy analysis of Race to the Top work in states and lauded several successes. But the report also downplayed several problems related to the grants, such as political resistance to the common core (in Arizona and elsewhere) and problems states faced creating and shifting to new teacher evaluations.

Read about the other states and more details in the full Phase 3 report report below:

Image from the Race to the Top Phase 3 report

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