Race to the Top
Race to the Top, abbreviated R2T, RTTT or RTT, is a $4.35 billion United States Department of Education contest created to spur innovation and reforms in state and local district K-12 education. It is funded by the ED Recovery Act as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and was announced by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on July 24, 2009. States were awarded points for satisfying certain educational policies, such as performance-based standards (often referred to as an Annual professional performance review) for teachers and principals, complying with Common Core standards, lifting caps on charter schools, turning around the lowest-performing schools, and building data systems.
Criteria for Funding 
State applications for funding were scored on selection criteria worth a total of 500 points. In order of weight, the criteria were:
- Great Teachers and Leaders (138 total points)
- Improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance (58 points)
- Ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals (25 points)
- Providing high-quality pathways for aspiring teachers and principals (21 points)
- Providing effective support to teachers and principals (20 points)
- Improving the effectiveness of teacher and principal preparation programs (14 points)
- State Success Factors (125 total points)
- Articulating State's education reform agenda and LEAs' participation in it (65 points)
- Building strong statewide capacity to implement, scale up, and sustain proposed plans (30 points)
- Demonstrating significant progress in raising achievement and closing gaps (30 points)
- Standards and Assessments (70 total points)
- Developing and adopting common standards (from the Common Core State Standards Initiative) (40 points)
- Supporting the transition to enhanced standards and high-quality assessments (20 points)
- Developing and implementing common, high-quality assessments (10 points)
- General Selection Criteria (55 total points)
- Ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charters and other innovative schools (40 points)
- Making education funding a priority (10 points)
- Demonstrating other significant reform conditions (5 points)
- Turning Around the Lowest-Achieving Schools (50 total points)
- Turning around the lowest-achieving schools (40 points)
- Intervening in the lowest-achieving schools and LEAs (10 points)
- Data Systems to Support Instruction (47 total points)
- Fully implementing a statewide longitudinal data system (24 points)
- Using data to improve instruction (18 points)
- Accessing and using State data (5 points)
In addition to the 485 possible points from the criteria above, the prioritization of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education is worth another fifteen points for a possible total of 500.
Many states changed their policies to make their applications more competitive. For instance, Illinois lifted a cap on the number of charter schools it allows; Massachusetts made it easier for students in low-performing schools to switch to charters, and West Virginia proposed a merit pay system that includes student achievement in its compensation calculations. In order to be eligible, states had to use value-added modeling in teacher evaluations. Some states had banned value-added modeling, but changed their laws to be eligible.
Race to the Top prompted 48 states to adopt common standards for K-12. Adoption was accelerated by the August 1, 2010 deadline for adopting common standards, after which states would not receive points toward round 2 applications. In addition, the White House announced a $350 million federal grant funding the development of assessments aligned to the common standards. The common standards were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers with funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and others.
Phase 1 applications for funding were due on January 19, 2010. 40 states applied for funding, as did the District of Columbia. Phase 1 finalists were announced on March 4, 2010, and phase 1 winners were announced on March 29, 2010. The deadline for submitting Phase 2 applications was June 1; Phase 2 decisions were announced on August 24, 2010. Phase 3 applications were spilt up into two parts. Part I was due November 22, 2011 and Part II was due December 16. Awards were announced on December 23. Winners of Phase 3 included: Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Only Phase 2 finalists who did not earn money were eligible. Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge, jointly conducted by the Department of Education and the United States Department of Health and Human Services, applications were due October 20. Nine states were awarded grants on December 16, 2011. On April 9, 2012 the Department of Education announced there would be a second round of the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge. The five states that were close to winning in the first round (CO, IL, NM, OR, WI) will compete for $133 million. On May 22, 2012, the Department of Education proposed draft criteria for a district-level Race to the Top program. The Department plans to make applications available in July with a proposed award date in late December 2012.
States were eligible for different funding award brackets depending on their share of the federal population of children between the ages of 5-17. Phase 1 award bands ranged from $20–75 million up to the highest phase 1 award range of $350–$700 million. Only the four largest states (California, Texas, Florida, and New York) were eligible for this highest bracket.
|State||Round 1 Score (Place)||Round 1 Result||Round 2 Score (Place)||Round 2 Result|
|Alabama||291.2 (37th)||-||212.0 (36th)||-|
|Arizona||240.2 (40th)||-||435.4 (12th)||Finalist|
|Arkansas||394.4 (17th)||-||389.2 (21st)||-|
|California||336.8 (27th)||-||423.6 (16th)||Finalist|
|Colorado||409.6 (14th)||Finalist||420.2 (17th)||Finalist|
|Connecticut||344.6 (25th)||-||379.0 (25th)||-|
|Delaware||454.6 (1st)||Awarded $100 million||-||-|
|District of Columbia||402.4 (16th)||Finalist||450.0 (6th)||Awarded $75 million|
|Florida||431.4 (4th)||Finalist||452.4 (4th)||Awarded $700 million|
|Georgia||433.6 (3rd)||Finalist||446.4 (8th)||Awarded $400 million|
|Hawaii||364.6 (22nd)||-||462.4 (3rd)||Awarded $75 million|
|Idaho||331.0 (28th)||-||Did Not Submit||-|
|Illinois||423.8 (5th)||Finalist||426.6 (15th)||Finalist|
|Indiana||355.6 (23rd)||-||Did Not Submit||-|
|Iowa||346.0 (24th)||-||382.8 (22nd)||-|
|Kansas||329.6 (29th)||-||Did Not Submit||-|
|Kentucky||418.8 (9th)||Finalist||412.4 (19th)||Finalist|
|Louisiana||418.2 (11th)||Finalist||434.0 (13th)||Finalist|
|Maine||Did Not Submit||-||283.4 (33rd)||-|
|Maryland||Did Not Submit||-||450.0 (6th)||Awarded $250 million|
|Massachusetts||411.4 (13th)||Finalist||471.0 (1st)||Awarded $250 million|
|Michigan||366.2 (21st)||-||381.6 (23rd)||-|
|Minnesota||375.0 (20th)||-||Did Not Submit||-|
|Mississippi||Did Not Submit||-||263.4 (34th)||-|
|Missouri||301.4 (33rd)||-||316.4 (30th)||-|
|Montana||Did Not Submit||-||238.4 (35th)||-|
|Nebraska||247.4 (39th)||-||295.8 (31st)||-|
|Nevada||Did Not Submit||-||381.2 (24th)||-|
|New Hampshire||271.2 (38th)||-||335.2 (29th)||-|
|New Jersey||387.0 (18th)||-||437.8 (11th)||Finalist|
|New Mexico||325.2 (30th)||-||366.2 (28th)||-|
|New York||408.6 (15th)||Finalist||464.8 (2nd)||Awarded $700 million|
|North Carolina||414.0 (12th)||Finalist||441.6 (9th)||Awarded $400 million|
|Ohio||418.6 (10th)||Finalist||440.8 (10th)||Awarded $400 million|
|Oklahoma||294.6 (34th)||-||391.8 (20th)||-|
|Oregon||292.6 (35th)||-||Did Not Submit||-|
|Pennsylvania||420.0 (7th)||Finalist||417.6 (18th)||Finalist|
|Rhode Island||419.0 (8th)||Finalist||451.2 (5th)||Awarded $75 million|
|South Carolina||423.2 (6th)||Finalist||431.0 (14th)||Finalist|
|South Dakota||135.8 (41st)||-||Did Not Submit||-|
|Tennessee||444.2 (2nd)||Awarded $500 million||-||-|
|Utah||379.4 (19th)||-||379.0 (25th)||-|
|Virginia||324.8 (31st)||-||Did Not Submit||-|
|Washington||Did Not Submit||-||290.6 (32nd)||-|
|West Virginia||292.4 (36th)||-||Did Not Submit||-|
|Wisconsin||341.2 (26th)||-||368.4 (27th)||-|
|Wyoming||318.6 (32nd)||-||Did Not Submit||-|
Alaska, North Dakota, Texas, and Vermont did not submit Race to the Top applications for either round.
After both rounds, the Department of Education released the complete scoring of each application, with the intention of making the scoring process more transparent and helping states revise their applications to be more competitive for the second round of competition.
Although many states have competed to win the grants, Race to the Top has also been criticized by politicians, policy analysts, thought leaders and educators. Teachers' unions and educators have complained that the tests are an inaccurate way to measure teachers, and haven't worked in the past. Conservatives have complained that it imposes federal control on state schools. Critics say that high-stakes testing is unreliable, that charter schools weaken public education, or that the federal government should not influence local schools.
In explaining why Texas would not be applying for Race to the Top funding, Governor Rick Perry stated, "we would be foolish and irresponsible to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington."
Critics further contend that the reforms being promoted are unproven or have been unsuccessful in the past. Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, for example, commented that empirical evidence "shows clearly that choice, competition and accountability as education reform levers are not working." A coalition of civil rights organizations, including the Urban League, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Rainbow Push Coalition released a statement that “Such an approach reinstates the antiquated and highly politicized frame for distributing federal support to states that civil rights organizations fought to remove in 1965.” The Economic Policy Institute released a report in April 2010 finding that "the selection of Delaware and Tennessee was subjective and arbitrary, more a matter of bias or chance than a result of these states’ superior compliance with reform policies." Finally, the American Enterprise Institute released a report in September 2010 finding disparities in Race to the Top scores versus the education reform track records and ratings of states from outside, independent sources. This report finds that states' political circumstances may have influenced states' final scores.
On May 26, 2010, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell withdrew the state from the second round of the competition. Virginia finished 31st out of 41 states in the first round, but McDonnell said that Virginia would not continue for the second round, believing the competition required the use of common education performance standards instead of Virginia's current standards. In fact, the use of common performance standards is not required. Although McDonnell supported the Race to the Top program during his campaign for governor, he claimed on his June 1 appearance on MSNBC that the Race to the Top rules precluded participating states from adopting more rigorous standards in addition to whatever multi-state standards they join. However, in some cases, "Race to the Top" regulations award the points even if states adopt standards more rigorous than the optional, common standards.
In lieu of an immediate ability to overturn Race to the Top, many grassroots groups have organized to specifically protest Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
- "Race to the Top Program Executive Summary". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved January 26, 2010.
- "Vermont sits out first round in Race to the Top competition". Burlington Free Press. Retrieved February 1, 2010.[dead link]
- Dillon, Sam. "Method to Grade Teachers Provokes Battles", The New York Times, August 31, 2010. Accessed September 1, 2010.
- "Virginia's stance against national standards is a blow for students". Washington Post. June 5, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
- "Higher Standards, Better Tests, Race to the Top". U.S. Dept. of Education. June 15, 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-24.
- "Race to the Top Assessment Program". U.S. Dept. of Education. June 24, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-24.
- Anderson, Nick (March 10, 2010). "Common set of school standards to be proposed". Washington Post. p. A1.
- King Jr, Neil; Martinez, Barbara (March 5, 2010). "Race to the Top Finalists Are Named". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 8, 2010.[dead link]
- "Tennessee, Delaware schools to get Race to the Top funds". CNN. March 30, 2010. Retrieved March 29, 2010.
- "Nine States and the District of Columbia Win Second Round Race to the Top Grants". US Dept. of Education. August 24, 2010. Retrieved July 10, 2012.
- U.S. Department of Education (2011-11-16). "Phase 3 Overview Webinar" (PDF). U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 2011-11-26.
- http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2012/04/d.html?qs=early+learning+challenge. Missing or empty
- "Race to the Top Phase 1 Final Results". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved March 30, 2010.
- "Race to the Top Phase 2 Final Results". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved December 24, 2010.
- "Obama offers 'Race to the Top' contest for schools". The Guardian (London). January 23, 2008. Retrieved January 26, 2010.
- "Press Releases - Gov. Perry: Texas Knows Best How to Educate Our Students, Texas will not apply for Federal Race to the Top Funding.". Office of Governor Rick Perry. Retrieved February 1, 2010.
- Ravitch, Diane (March 14, 2010). "The Big Idea -- it's bad education policy". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 23, 2010.
- Darby, Seyward, Defending Obama's Education Plan New Republic
- McNeil, Michelle, Civil Rights Groups Call for New Federal Education Agenda, Education Week
- "LET’S DO THE NUMBERS: Department of Education’s "Race to the Top" Program Offers Only a Muddled Path to the Finish Line". Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved April 23, 2010.
- Bowen, Daniel. "Politics and the Scoring of Race to the Top Applications". American Enterprise Institute. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
- Nick Anderson and Rosalind Helderman (Mary 27, 2010). "Virginia Withdraws from Obama's Race to the Top". Washington Post. p. B4.
- "Race to the Top Program Guidance and Frequently Asked Questions". US Department of Education. May 27, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-11. "Race to the Top does not endorse any particular consortium or set of standards. Criterion (B)(1) specifies characteristics of consortia and standards that earn States points under this criterion."
- Kumar, Anita (June 1, 2010). "McDonnell on MSNBC: Race to the Top too burdensome". Washington Post.
- Garofalo, Pat (June 1, 2010). "McDonnell Falsely Claims That Race To The Top Would Force Virginia To Lower Its Academic Standards". Retrieved 2010-06-11.
- "McDonnell on MSNBC: Race to the Top would bring "burdensome" federal standards". Retrieved 2010-06-11.
- "Overview Information: Race to the Top Fund". Federal Register. November 18, 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-11. "A State may supplement the common standards with additional standards, provided that the additional standards do not exceed 15 percent of the State's total standards for that content area."