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California Falls Short In Race To The Top

Alexandra Tilsley |
August 24, 2010 | 3:18 p.m. PDT

Senior News Editor

California, which could have received as much as $700 million, is not among the 10 states that will get federal money as part of phase two of the Race to the Top competition.

Lincoln High School
Lincoln High School

The Race to the Top competition, started by the Obama administration, distributes federal grants to states that have ambitious, innovative and feasible plans to reform public education. 

The winners, announced Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, are Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia. Each state will receive a grant ranging from $75 million to $700 million. Delaware and Tennessee both earned grants in the first phase of the competition. 

California also applied to the first phase of the competition, but failed to make the finals. This time around, the state made it to the finalist stage, but ultimately fell short.

"I'm disappointed," said Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction. "We were initially optimistic. The seven district superintendents involved worked very hard. The loss of potential funding will slow the reform efforts, but not defeat our efforts to continue to improve student achievement."

The state’s Race to the Top application included plans to adopt a common set of standards, to use data to inform instructional practices and to place the highest performing teachers and principals at the lowest performing schools.

The state lost some points for its intention to use test score analysis for a portion of a teacher’s evaluation, a process described in the application. Such a move would have required a negotiation with teacher unions, and federal officials questioned whether or not an agreement could be reached. 

Still, Department of Education officials emphasized that the finalists were competitive and that only a few points separated the winners from those states that fell short. Full detail of the reviewers’ comments and scores will be available on the Department of Education website by Thursday. O'Connell said he is looking forward to reviewing California's scorecard.

So far, the Race to the Top program has provided $4.35 billion in federal grants to support education reform. Duncan said in a press release that he hopes there will be a third phase of the competition, and he has requested $1.35 billion in next year’s budget.

Whether or not California will participate in the competition a third time remains to be decided, O’Connell said. 

“We’ll have to look at that criteria,” he said. “It does take a great time and effort and work and some resources to apply for these things.”


Reach news editor Alexandra Tilsley here.



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