A State-by-State Evaluation of Race to the Top Performance

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–March 26, 2012.  Today the Center for American Progress released “Race to the Top: What Have We Learned from the States So Far?”, which evaluates the progress made by 11 states and the District of Columbia on their federal school reform grants. Of the 12 grantees, the report found that ten are making the grade when it comes to implementation of their Race to the Top promises. Two states, Florida and Hawaii, were evaluated as not meeting expectations by the report.

The report also found that although a lot of work remains to be done, Race to the Top has sparked significant school reform efforts and demonstrates that significant policy changes are possible. For instance, all the states that received a Race to the Top grant have either piloted or implemented a new teacher evaluation system. The report also found that most of the states have the support of key stakeholders and an adequate performance rating by the Department of Education.

“We wanted to engage in a project that would dig into Race to the Top and get a better sense of what exactly was happening within the states that won the grants,” said Ulrich Boser, author of the report and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. “This report shows that while progress is uneven, states have met many of their early promises.”

Though the states are still in the early stages of their work, the report outlines the following key findings:

  • Race to the Top has advanced the reform agenda. States have used their Race to the Top dollars to create new teacher- and principal-evaluation systems that include student learning as a component.
     
  • Many states are largely on track with their Race to the Top commitments, making strong progress and meeting many of their initial promises. And under our evaluation rubric, most of the states appear to be meeting expectations.
     
  • Every state has delayed some part of their grant implementation, and some observers worry about a lack of capacity to execute complicated reform initiatives given tight deadlines.
     
  • Some states will most likely not accomplish all of the goals outlined in their grants. Hawaii claims that it will erase the achievement gap by 2018, while Tennessee promises to have 100 percent of its students proficient in math and reading by 2014. States and districts very rarely, if ever, have reached such high achievement benchmarks.
     
  • The U.S. Department of Education has played an important role in the program’s success, keeping states accountable for their performance and helping them with implementation. Historically, the Department of Education has not had either the tools or the political will to push states in this way.

In light of these findings, the report provided the following recommendations:

  • States should build capacity for reform. If states plan to achieve the lofty goals they set in their Race to the Top grants, they will need to invest in both the people and the technology needed to produce results.
     
  • States must do far more to improve communications with stakeholders. Many states do not appear to have reliable ways to get information out to key stakeholders, and when they do make the attempt, they often produce glossy, overly optimistic documents that do little to build trust. This needs to change.
     
  • States and districts must do more to foster collaboration among key interest groups and create buy-in. Administrators, unions, and parents will be key to the success of Race to the Top and in some states, the voices of key stakeholders have not been heard.
     
  • Congress should support the Obama administration’s efforts to create additional competitive programs as well as fund another Race to the Top program. Competitive programs have impact, as demonstrated by the early success of Race to the Top.

In the report’s conclusion, Boser points out that a single competitive grant program will never sustain a total revamping of the nation’s education system nor will a program like Race to the Top be implemented exactly as it was imagined—one of the goals of the program was to figure out what works when it comes to education reform. Yet two things have become abundantly clear. There is a lot that still needs to be done when it comes to Race to the Top, and many states still have some of the hardest work in front of them. It’s also clear, however, that a program like Race to the Top holds a great deal of promise and can spark new and much-needed school reform efforts.

To read the full report, click here.

Source: americanprogress.org