It’s the final year of Race to the Top, so how are the dozen winners doing when it comes to the four main areas of the program, including turning around low-performing schools, improving teacher effectiveness, beefing up state data systems, and bolstering standards and assessments?
Overall, states have made great progress in a short amount of time, but there have been bumps in the road, according to a report by the Center for American Progress, a think tank in Washington that many consider to be closely aligned with the Obama administration. Race to the Top, is, of course, the administration’s highest profile K-12 initiative. CAP’s report is informed by the U.S. Department of Education’s latest Annual Performance Report on the data. (Reports here, Politics K-12 summary here.)
Some highlights of the CAP report:
•Many RTT sates have a strong track record when it comes to turning around the lowest performing schools. The big stand-outs here are Massachusetts and North Carolina, according to the report. Both showed early strong results. Both Tennessee and Georgia have experimented with assisting districts with turnarounds, including through Tennessee’s “Achievement School District.” The report notes that New York withheld federal turnaround money, in part because of difficulties with teacher evaluation. But it fails to mention that the District of Columbia was particularly sluggish when it comes to turnarounds, which was a key concern in the department’s own progress reports.
•Four states—Delaware, Tennessee, Florida, and the District of Columbia—are at or near full implementation on their evaluation systems, according to the CAP report. (It’s notable, however, that the U.S. Department of Education’s own reports found that in both Delaware and Florida, there wasn’t a lot of differentiation among ratings—nearly every teacher was deemed “effective.”) Other states, including Georgia and Maryland, are still struggling with this component, the report noted.
•All of the RTTT states have adopted college- and career-ready standards and are in the process of rolling them out. New York got fairly high marks from the department for its common-core professional development. But the CAP reports notes that the state has had implementation challenges, although the majority of educators continue to view the standards in a positive light. Tennessee and Delaware got particularly high marks for their work in this area.
•States are also making good progress when it comes to data systems, particularly Massachusetts and Delaware. Ohio has not yet linked its K-12 and higher education data systems.
You can read the CAP report for yourself here.