George Lucas Educational Foundation



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Duncan Salutes State and Local Leaders for Leading "Quiet Revolution" for School Reform

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced that 19 states are the finalists for more than $3 billion available in the second round of funding in the Race to the Top program.

"Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia submitted bold blueprints for reform that bear the signatures of many key players at the state and local level who drive change in our schools," Duncan said.

"Peer reviewers identified these 19 finalists as having the boldest plans, but every state that applied will benefit from this process of collaboratively creating a comprehensive education reform agenda," Duncan added. "Much of the federal dollars we distribute though other channels can support their plan to raise standards, improve teaching, use data more effectively to support student learning, and turn around underperforming schools."

Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia applied for the second round of Race to the Top. Including the 36 applications for the second round of Race to the Top, a total of 46 states and the District of Columbia applied for either the first or second rounds - or both.

The 19 finalists are: Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.

Duncan named the finalists at the end of a major speech at the National Press Club. In the speech, Duncan saluted educators, elected officials, and private sector leaders for leading a "quiet revolution" of the education reform across the country.

"From educators to parents and political leaders to journalists -- there is a growing sense that a quiet revolution is underway in our homes and schools, classrooms, and communities," Duncan said. "This quiet revolution is driven by motivated parents who want better educational options for their children. It's being driven by great educators and administrators who are challenging the defeatism and inertia that has trapped generations of children in second-rate schools."

He highlighted the momentum for adopting rigorous standards, elevating the teaching profession to reward excellence, turning around low-performing schools, and building better data systems to inform reform.

While the work is being done by governors, superintendents, and teachers at the state and local levels, the federal government is supporting their work through Race to the Top and other reform programs, including the Investing in Innovation Fund, the Teacher Incentive Fund, the School Improvement Grants under Title I, and the federal charter school program.

Through all of these programs, the Department of Education will be distributing almost $10 billion to support reform in states and local communities.

"As we look at the last 18 months, it is absolutely stunning to see how much change has happened at the state and local levels, unleashed in part by these incentive programs," Duncan said.

Race to the Top's Next Steps

Race to the Top is an historic federal investment in education reform, with $4.35 billion available to support states in their comprehensive reforms. The Department is reserving $350 million for a separate competition to support consortia of states that are creating the next generation of assessments that will support reform.

In the first round of competition supporting state-based reforms, Delaware and Tennessee won grants based on their comprehensive plans to reform their schools and the statewide support for those plans. Almost $3.4 billion remains to award grants to winners in the second round.

The finalists chosen today will travel to Washington during the week of Aug. 9 to present their plans to the peer reviewers who scored their applications. After the state's presentations and an extended question-and-answer period, the peer reviewers will finalize their scores and comments.

The Department intends to announce the winners of the competition in September.

"Just as in the first round, we're going to set a very high bar because we know that real and meaningful change will only come from doing hard work and setting high expectations," Duncan said.

Duncan acknowledged that not all of the finalists would be awarded grants from the almost $3.4 billion remaining in Race to the Top. President Obama has requested $1.35 billion for the program in the administration's fiscal 2011 budget.

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Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Just throwing this question out there. Do you think financial incentives will motivate effective change in schools? If so, why? If not, are there other ways of effective educational reform that you feel the Department of Ed should support?

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

The Wall Street Journal just posted an informative piece on the recent Race to the Top rulings. Here's some excerpts I found particularly interesting:

"U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the finalists during a speech Tuesday at the National Press Club, where he called the competition part of a "quiet revolution" sweeping America to transform public education. The program "has unleashed an avalanche of pent-up education-reform activity," Mr. Duncan said. "It is absolutely stunning to see how much change has happened at the state and local level.""

Would you characterize the effects of Race to the Top on education "a quiet revolution?"

Here's more interesting tidbits from the article:

"Race to the Top has dangled millions of dollars in front of cash-starved states, encouraging at least 23 of them to overhaul education policies. Colorado, for example, made it tougher for teachers to earn tenure and easier for them to lose it. Illinois and New York lifted the cap on the number of charter schools. Michigan and Massachusetts passed laws allowing state intervention in poorly-performing schools or districts.

The federal competition even convinced 29 states to adopt a set of common learning standards, dictating what students should know at each grade level in math and language arts.

Illinois State Supt. of Education Christopher Koch worries that, if his state does not win, it will curtail plans, including overhauling how teachers are evaluated. "When you are in a fiscal crisis, like we are, it makes it much tougher to get things done in the aggressive timeline we have set out," he said. "Reform isn't free.""

Robin Brennan's picture
Robin Brennan
11-12 Astronomy Teacher -Planetarium Director and Teachers' Union President

No. RTTT again blames teachers when the real travesty is our culture does not respect education. The way education is funded through property tax leads to complaints about local schools. Public schools are not failing. We have been under attack since privatization seems profitable and charter schools could lead to more religious base education during the Bush administration. Duncan is an embarrassment and a disapointment following in these footprints.

Change the way education is funded. Fully fund state and federal mandates. Special education mandates are the most expensive and least funded. Stop looking at test are not widgets they are humans with great diversity. Stop using business models for education. Hold administration accountable to train, support and properly evaluate staff and you will see all the improvement you want.

Bill Powell's picture
Bill Powell
Retired Supt; 33 years in public ed; lives in Colorado mountains w/ family

Race to the Top is turning out to be more for the States to compete in what might better be called "Race to Adopt" as they race for the money. Short term money with LONG TERM OBLIGATIONS ... a sad day for public education in America.

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