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 states can learn from the competitive-grant program, according to.
Seven states won $200 million in the “Phase 3" Race to the Top grants in December 2011: Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. In addition to “comprehensive reform,” these Phase 3 grants emphasized states’ science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs. States reported success in helping to create new data systems and regional resource centers, but at times struggled to support curriculum and classroom resource projects. Among the highlights:
• Arizona, which won $25 million, earned praise for regional centers designed to support local districts, and monthly meetings to ensure local projects matched state goals. But the state did not completely vet instructional materials to ensure that they were aligned to Arizona’s content standards.
• Colorado, which received $18 million, expanded the resources it creates with districts to make items about standards and teacher-evaluation systems available statewide. It also 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 content standards, and improve student achievement in STEM-related courses. But at the end of three years, it 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 projects as the reason for the relatively low proportion of money spent.
A version of this article appeared in the June 01, 2016 edition of Education Week as Race to Top Grants Spur Mixed Successes for Seven States