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Race to the Top: What Have We Learned from the States So Far?

Race to the Top: What Have We Learned from the States So Far?

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Ulrich Boser digs into Race to the Top and gets a better sense of what exactly is happening within the states that won the grants.
Ulrich Boser digs into Race to the Top and gets a better sense of what exactly is happening within the states that won the grants.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Center for American Progress on Mar 26, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Our analysis leads us to the following recommendations.

States should build capacity for reform. States promised a great deal in many

of their Race to the Top grants. If states are serious about achieving these lofy
goals they will need to do far more to improve capacity and ensure the quality
and fdelity of reforms at the local level. Tis means investing in both the people
and the technology needed to produce results. It also means providing educa-
tors with the fexibility to try new approaches as well as creating operational
structures that support innovation and success.

States must do more to improve communications. Many states have struggled

to meet their Race to the Top commitments. Te reasons behind the delays
and setbacks vary widely but communication issues have been central to many
of the problems. Looking forward, states should do more to honestly com-
municate both their problems and their successes to the public. States should
also post their monthly updates online with the Department of Education.
Tis practice will go a long way to building the trust and commitment that’s
needed for reforms to be successful.

Collaboration with key stakeholders including parents, teachers, and students

will be key to the success of Race to the Top, and states and districts must do

more to create buy-in. In some states the voices of key stakeholders have not

been heard, and states and districts must do more to build a big tent when it
comes to RT implementation. Tis is particularly true in Florida, where the
teachers union has had major disagreements with the state over the ways in
reforms have been implemented. Tis has the potential to undermine the suc-
cess of the program in these states.

Competitive programs have impact. Tis recommendation may seem familiar

but it only underscores its importance, and we hope this report demonstrates
the case for competitive programs and that Congress supports the president’s
budget and its request for new and important programs such as the RESPECT
Project, which ofers the states $5 billion in grants to revamp teacher policies.

70 Center for American Progress | Race to the Top: What Have We Learned from the States So Far?

The Department of Education should continue to play a strong role in

monitoring state performance. Te Department of Education has been closely

monitoring Race to the Top and shown a clear willingness to hold states
accountable for their performance. Te Department of Education should not
waver in this regard —such support and monitoring appears to have been
central to the early efectiveness of the program.

Our analysis of Race to the Top is far from the last word on the Obama admin-
istration’s signature education initiative. In many ways the program is still in its
infancy, and for states and districts much of the hard work remains to be done,
from building capacity to shoring up political will. Nor is our analysis blind to the
philosophical and practical limitations of the program. It is afer all just one federal
competitive program that had the unique opportunity of granting very large sums
of money at a time when state budgets were in desperate shape.

Looking forward, implementation will be key. Can states continue to stick to their
promises? Will teachers continue to support the initiatives? Will there be fdelity
across states and districts in the quality and scope of work? No one knows for sure,
but what’s clear is that despite some setbacks, Race to the Top has already become
an important lever for change and innovation. Few would have predicted in 2009
that a dozen states would soon be implementing new teacher-evaluation systems
that would dramatically change how teachers teach. And in the end we believe that
such change and innovation is a key prerequisite for the deep, systematic reform
that our education system so clearly needs.

Appendix A | www.americanprogress.org 71

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