Ed Department Announces Race to the Top Finalists

By Cynthia McCabe

March 4, 2010 — The U.S. Department of Education today announced that 15 states and the District of Columbia are finalists for $4 billion in competitive school improvement grant money under the new ”Race to the Top” program.

Race to the Top grant money is intended to reward innovation in education focusing on four main areas: teacher effectiveness and distribution, standards and assessments, data systems, and struggling schools. It is part of the nearly $100 billion set aside by the Obama Administration for education in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed a year ago.

Finalists are: Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee. An additional 25 states applied and were not selected.

“The list of finalists is intriguing and we encourage the Department of Education to spend its money wisely by focusing its resources where collaboration with key stakeholders already exists,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said. “We have no time to waste and educators must be at the table if we are truly going to turn around our nation’s struggling schools.”

The National Education Association shares the Obama administration’s goal of fostering innovation and reform to close the gaps in achievement and opportunity in our nation’s schools. NEA’s 3.2 million members have been part of numerous successful, targeted efforts to create optimal conditions for student learning and to develop and implement successful strategies to turn around struggling schools. (Learn more about these efforts comprising NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign.)

But NEA opposes states’ gathering and use of test scores as the sole method of evaluating teachers. While student data is essential for teachers developing instruction and curriculum, multiple criteria should be used to judge educators’ effectiveness. (And a survey of 40,000 teachers by the Gates Foundation released Wednesday indicates that they agree.)

Announcement of the grant winners comes next month, according to the Department of Education’s program timeline. Those not selected have the option of re-working their applications and applying for a second round in June. Final awards are due to be disbursed in September.

“When the winners are announced, we expect collaborative and comprehensive plans to improve schools to be prominent features in each of the state applications,” Van Roekel said. “The combination of collective responsibility and collaborative thinking has a track record for yielding results that are positive for students and their schools.”

He added, “Our combined efforts focus on the needs of the students, and we want them to be successful in school and in life. Selecting the winners is the beginning to helping thousands of underserved students in our lowest performing schools.”

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    03/08/10 – Trevor Colestock

    Republicans here in Florida, Jeb Bush allies, are using this program and rhetoric as cover, understandably so, for Senate Bill 6, the anti-tenure law. Under this proposed bill, collective bargaining and salaries based on years and degrees will disappear and will be replaced by salries based on test scores and evaluations based upon those scores. Also, if half of a teacher’s class load does not make gains, then the principal will be barred by this law from granting a teacher a ranking of “effective” or “highly effective.” If a teacher does not get one of these rankings, their certificate will not be renewed, and thus dismissal will ensue. A lot of this insanity began here in Florida. Jeb’s F+ Plan in 1999 became George’s NCLB. Now Obama is encouraging these jokers, and it will be exported from Florida once again to a state near you unless NEA, AFT, and other locals band together. As Ben Frankin said on the onset of the Revolution “we must all hang together lest we hang separately.”

    03/06/10 – Suzie

    I have the same questions. Turn the members loose on this insanity. It didn’t work in Chicago, and it won’t work elsewhere.

    03/05/10 – Maynard Seider

    Why is my union, the NEA, supporting a program that uses high stakes testing to evaluate teachers, that will foster the growth of charter schools and that will encourage union busting?