Wednesday, June 2, 2010

35 States and D.C. Apply for Race to the Top in Second Round

Applications for the second phase of the Race to the Top fund were due June 1st. At day's end, 35 states and the District of Columbia had submitted applications.

Race to the Top is a competitive $4.35 billion federal grant that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan created with discretionary dollars he received through the federal stimulus package. In the first round, the U.S. Department of Education awarded Delaware and Tennessee, leaving $3.4 billion to distribute in the second round. At speaking engagements across the country, Secretary Duncan has said he expects 10-15 states to be awarded in the second round.

Idaho applied for Race to the Top in the first round, but decided not to apply in the second round.

“I believe the Race to the Top grant program does provide opportunities for states to be innovative and forward-thinking,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said in May. “However, throughout my administration, I have been consistent in my belief that the victory is not in asking; it is in delivering.  I will not ask Idaho schools and districts to spend their precious time and resources competing for an unrealistic goal that has been set by the federal government, not by the state of Idaho. Therefore, I will continue my work as State Superintendent to implement the vision, mission and goals created by Idahoans to raise student achievement and improve our public education system.”

Idaho applied for $120 million in grant funding in the first round. The state's application was aligned to Idaho's strategic plan for education. More than half of Idaho school districts and public charter schools chose to sign up to participate in the state's Race to the Top application.

Since the peer reviewers’ comments on Idaho’s first grant were released in April, Superintendent Luna has worked with educational stakeholders and staff at the State Department of Education to evaluate the application and gather feedback from educators, parents, and community members across Idaho. Based on this feedback, it was decided Idaho would not to reapply for Race to the Top in the second round for several reasons.

Specifically, the short application timeline would place an undue burden on Idaho school districts as they work to set budgets during a tough economic year. Second round applications are due June 1. Since the U.S. Department of Education released the new guidance for the second round in April, states and local school districts were only given a matter of weeks to fully evaluate peer reviewers’ comments, meet with stakeholder groups, revise applications and decide whether or not to sign up.

The U.S. Department of Education also imposed funding caps based on the size of each state for the second round. Under these new guidelines, Idaho could only apply for up to $75 million, significantly less than the state’s initial application of $120 million. These funding limitations make it unlikely the state will be able to improve its application while reducing its projected budget.

Idaho also faces challenges in gaining points in the areas of longitudinal data and educator evaluations. The Race to the Top grant program does not recognize the significant progress Idaho has made toward implementing a longitudinal data system over the past two years. While Idaho scored high on our plans for fully implementing the statewide longitudinal data system and learning management system, Idaho earned few points for what the state currently has in place.

In addition, to be competitive under Race to the Top, Idaho must tie at least a portion of teacher and principal evaluations to student academic growth and achievement. While Superintendent Luna is not opposed to this concept, he does not believe this a change Idaho can or should make overnight. This change will require all educational stakeholders working together to come up with a plan that best meets the needs of Idaho students.

The U.S. Department of Education will announce the Phase 2 winners before the end of September.

Here is the list of states that applied in the second round of Race to the Top:

* Alabama
* Arizona
* Arkansas
* California
* Colorado
* Connecticut
* District of Columbia
* Florida
* Georgia
* Hawaii
* Illinois
* Iowa
* Kentucky
* Louisiana
* Maine
* Maryland
* Massachusetts
* Michigan
* Mississippi
* Missouri
* Montana
* Nebraska
* Nevada
* New Hampshire
* New Jersey
* New Mexico
* New York
* North Carolina
* Ohio
* Oklahoma
* Pennsylvania
* Rhode Island
* South Carolina
* Utah
* Washington
* Wisconsin

~ Melissa M.

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