Education Funding Federal File

Race to the Top Half-Time Report

February 05, 2013 7 min read

In its review of work during the second year of Race to the Top implementation in 11 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Education found progress in a variety of areas, but also a diverse set of challenges that remain for the grant winners. The common-core push was often singled out for praise, but delays in evaluation and data systems were also cited as trouble spots. The winners shared a total of $4 billion in grants.

Jump to a state: Delaware | District of Columbia | Florida | Georgia | Hawaii | Maryland | Massachusetts | New York | North Carolina | Ohio | Rhode Island | Tennessee


Award: $120 million

Challenges: The department said problems in the first year of implementing the Delaware Performance Appraisal System continued to affect the state’s effort to tie student achievement to teacher evaluations and improve the distribution of effective teachers. In addition, the state continued to face challenges recruiting teachers and meeting their preparation needs.

Accomplishments: Delaware trained 94 percent of educators on the Common Core State Standards. All four of its schools in the state’s Partnership Zone that used intervention plans showed improved scores in English/language arts and math in 2012 compared to 2011.

District of Columbia

Award: $75 million

Challenges: Turnover among leadership and staff have delayed facets of Race to the Top implementation, like the release of resources for the common core and the portal to the District school system’s longitudinal data system, which still isn’t fully operational. In addition, work to turn around low-performing schools has faced delays.

Accomplishments: The District has developed high-quality math lessons through a program that will soon be expanded to English/language arts. Teacher evaluations that incorporate student achievement have also been approved. Plans for transitioning to the common core have been reviewed and approved.


Award: $700 million

Challenges: Contract delays in the first year and early in the second year hampered some work. Problems with reaching the goal of opening 30 to 40 new charter schools by the 2014-15 school year were due to the concurrent “rigorous” charter approval process. Data on teacher and principal evaluations were hard to collect from some districts.

Accomplishments: Florida awarded grants to hire hundreds of new teachers to work in struggling schools in Miami-Dade and Duval counties. It moved forward with an information-sharing system for teachers allowing them to share teaching materials. It also approved all district teacher and principal evaluations and began using them.


Award: $400 million

Challenges: The state’s new evaluation system for teachers and principals has had problems due to a lack of strategic planning and the failure to complete an analysis of its system intended to assign value to key components. The U.S. Education Department said Georgia should change how it evaluates state and district projects related to Race to the Top.

Accomplishments: The state field-tested 800 test items aligned to the common core. Georgia awarded 11 Innovation Fund grants that encourage cooperation between districts and the opening of STEM-focused charter schools, among other goals. It created a Career Ladder Task Force to help high-performing teachers progress and eventually move into administrative roles.


Award: $75 million

Challenges: The state remains on “high-risk” status for its Race to the Top grant and has not yet secured an agreement with its state teachers’ union, the Hawaii State Teachers Association, about reforms to its teacher incentives and compensation system for the 2014-15 school year. The new principal evaluation pilot had also been delayed.

Accomplishments: The state piloted a new teacher evaluation system in 18 schools last year, and also upgraded its longitudinal data system so that it could monitor technology problems in real-time. It reached an agreement with the state teachers’ union to provide more learning time and professional development for low-performing schools in the 2012-13 school year.


Award: $250 million

Challenges: The state lacked “concrete expectations” for its evaluation pilots in seven districts in 2011-12, meaning that results could not be compared between districts. Full implementation for teacher and principal evaluations for 2013-14 is in jeopardy, because of problems in the field test for the evaluations this school year. A formative assessment system’s development has also been delayed.

Accomplishments: A total of 6,000 teachers, representing every school in the state, received common core training. The state expanded interventions to 16 low-performing schools and held its first Academy for School Turnaround to train principals and executive officers on best practices for improving student achievement.


Award: $250 million

Challenges: Local collective bargaining agreements that deal with Race to the Top were delayed in 2012, meaning that some districts will have less time to learn about their new evaluation systems this school year. Schools’ ability to access real-time data due to “interoperability” problems was also delayed.

Accomplishments: The state made “significant headway” in working with union and district leaders to form new evaluation systems and related resources, and helping districts transition to the new evaluations. It developed a new data tool that will allow parents and others to learn about schools’ performance, and it piloted a framework for educator evaluations in 45 districts.

New York

Award: $700 million

Challenges: Curriculum resources have been slowed because of delays in revising content standards. The state faced problems with its capacity to manage various projects. Assessments in science and social studies for grades 6-8 were delayed.

Accomplishments: The state released a new uniform application for charter school applicants to use. It completed the first year of transitioning to the common core, including the field-testing of test items aligned to the common core. It also awarded two School Innovation Fund grants and provided further support to 15 districts with targeted school improvement.

North Carolina

Award: $400 million

Challenges: Technology projects related to STEM work and other projects were delayed due to contract difficulties. The state had a goal of having 100 teachers participate in the North Carolina Teacher Corps project’s first year, but failed to meet it.

Accomplishments: The state reported that since implementation of Race to the Top began, 84 percent of its low-performing schools have increased their composite academic scores. It piloted common-core-aligned assessments in literacy for K-3 with 6,600 teachers. Forty districts are sharing professional-development resources and data as the basis for a statewide tool.


Award: $400 million

Challenges: At the district level, officials struggled to come up with their own measures of student growth to be used in their evaluation systems. The development of a system designed to allow teachers to share customized curricula to be used for differentiated instruction, and to serve as a way to store formative and summative assessments, was delayed.

Accomplishments: The state trained 250 state and regional officials to be subject-area experts ready to help schools and districts. It implemented new requirements for teacher licensure and enhanced standards for educator-preparation programs.

Rhode Island

Award: $75 million

Challenges: Professional-development programs and staffing changes faced delays at low-performing schools designated for turnarounds. Additional support will be needed to implement the Student Learning Objectives portion of teacher evaluations.

Accomplishments: The state worked with educators to develop new data systems, including an Early Warning System designed to identify students at risk of failing or dropping out. The state has trained 5,800 educators on the common core in two years. A total of 262 first-year teachers received new, additional support such as coaching and new professional development.


Award: $500 million

Challenges: Initial K-2 training for the common core was eventually deemed insufficient, requiring a new effort in the upcoming third year of Race to the Top implementation. An Early Warning System that tracks student achievement experienced problems involving technical delays and the quality of available data.

Accomplishments: The state’s teacher and principal evaluations were fully implemented. Tennessee launched the Achievement School District in the 2012-13 academic year. It awarded grants to 56 schools with some of the highest achievement gaps in the state to help individualized student supports. It also expanded a program that helps prepare STEM teachers in secondary schools.

Source: U.S. Department of Education
A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 2013 edition of Education Week as Half-Time Report


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