Washington loses out on Race To the Top funds

Washington was not named a finalist in the competition for the $3.4 billion in Race to the Top funds. According to an AP story, the state’s chances were hurt by the lack of charter schools.

This press release from the League of Education Voters arrived today:

Education advocates urge leaders to develop a robust plan to help all students succeed

SEATTLE – Parents and education advocates were disappointed to learn today that Washington State was not selected as a finalist in the second round of Race to the Top. In June, the state submitted an application to win $250 million in federal funding for education reform and innovation with the support of 265 school districts.

“While we’ve made progress, today’s announcement underscores the fact that Washington still has a lot of work to do to be competitive in the U.S.—let alone the rest of the world,” said Chris Korsmo, executive director of the League of Education Voters.

“Our kids need and deserve a world class education to be competitive in today’s global marketplace,” Korsmo said. “Right now, we’re coming up short. We need a robust plan to ensure our kids receive the rigor and support they need to get into and through college, and to help catch up the students who are behind.”

“Despite the disappointing news, this Race to the Top competition has leveraged more change than we would have thought possible,” said Lisa Macfarlane, co-founder of the League of Education Voters. “We passed important education reforms this year, but that’s just the first step. Now, our state’s leaders must work together with the districts and unions to achieve real changes that will transform our schools and help all of our students succeed.”

In 2010, state lawmakers approved legislation to improve Washington’s ability to win a portion of President Obama’s $4.3 billion federal Race to the Top fund for education reform and innovation, such as:

· Authority to intervene in our lowest performing schools;

· A new teacher and principal evaluation system;

· Additional pathways for professionals to become teachers; and

· Extending teacher tenure from two years to three.

Here’s a bit more (from a South Caroline TV station blog) about the states that did make the cut:

South Carolina is a finalist in the second round of national competition for federal Race to the Top grants, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Tuesday.

National observers had been predicting South Carolina’s selection because of the state’s strong showing in Round 1, which saw only two winners: Delaware and Tennessee. South Carolina finished sixth in Round 1 voting.

Duncan named 19 Round 2 finalists during a speech at the National Press Club, saying that judges selected them as having “the boldest plans” for reform. They 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. They earned the highest scores from reviewers who rated their commitments to improve teacher effectiveness, data systems, academic standards, and low-performing schools. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia submitted applications.

The list of finalists is supposed to reflect Duncan’s promise that he would set high standards for the federal education-reform competition, which has become one of the Obama administration’s most high-profile policy levers.

At stake is $3.4 billion from the economic stimulus package approved by Congress last year, not to mention bragging rights. South Carolina’s application is for about $175 million.

“It’s gratifying but not surprising,” State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said of today’s announcement. “Our performance in Round 1 was a pretty strong hint that we would be a factor in Round 2. Today’s announcement validates, once again, that South Carolina is viewed as being on the cutting edge of making the changes that will make schools stronger.”

Finalists will send teams to Washington the week of August 9 to make presentations to judges, who will then adjust states’ final grades based on how well they answer detailed questions about their applications.

Winners will be announced in late August or September.

Applications will be scored on a 500-point scale, with more than half of those points assigned to initiatives already in place. The remaining points go to states’ plans for the future. Rex said South Carolina has a number of programs that should earn it points, such as a statewide system for evaluating teachers, high academic standards for students, a system to roll those out to teachers and a pilot project that links teacher effectiveness to their college alma maters.

“Ultimately, the goal is to create a seamless system that gives students the knowledge and skills they need to succeed after high school – whether that means going on to higher education or directly to good jobs,” Rex said.

Betsy Carpentier is the Deputy State Superintendent of Education who oversaw South Carolina’s 1,700-page Round 2 application. She said the biggest change the state would see, if it were to receive the money, would be a tighter focus on the impact of individual educators on their students’ achievement. Under the South Carolina Education Accountability Act of 1998, improvements in student achievement have been tracked at the state, district, and school levels. Some federal money would be used to create a system that measures how much students grow in a year, she said. An effective teacher would be one who moves a student one grade level and a highly effective teacher would move students more than that, she said. Teachers would be evaluated on their students’ performance, and training and pay would be based on that review.

South Carolina’s proposal also would help train teachers to implement newly approved “common core” standards in reading and math; enhance the use of data to improve instruction, including the ability to deliver student data directly to teachers’ desktops; add pilot programs aimed at recruiting and retaining teachers, especially in hard-to-staff rural areas and in academically struggling schools; develop more extensive alternative certification paths for principals and teachers, with a focus on high-poverty schools; and assist struggling middle and high schools by providing more intensive help to their “feeder” schools.

In addition to the $3.4 billion in Round 2 grant funds, the USDE also will distribute $350 million to groups of states participating in a separate competition to create new college and career-ready assessments. South Carolina is working with two of those groups. One group is looking at on-line but traditional assessments; the other is considering online assessments in which individual students’ tests are modified as they take place in order to create a more precise picture of student performance.

South Carolina’s efforts also will receive a boost from a recently announced $15 million federal grant to help the state develop a statewide longitudinal data system – creating the foundation for integrating K-12 data systems with early childhood data systems, other human service systems, postsecondary data systems and workforce data systems. The expanded data system will meet federal requirements for collaboration with institutions and agencies of higher education. It will include new data sources and quality control and will create a statewide system for teachers and principals who need information to make immediate decisions about student learning.

Rex said that even if South Carolina wins a Round 2 award, the grant funds would be directed at specific initiatives detailed in the state’s application and could not be used to blunt the impact of more than $750 million in state budget cuts to public schools over the past two years.

5 thoughts on “Washington loses out on Race To the Top funds

  1. “The list of finalists is supposed to reflect Duncan’s promise that he would set high standards for the federal education-reform competition, which has become one of the Obama administration’s most high-profile policy levers.”

    “In addition to the $3.4 billion in Round 2 grant funds, the USDE also will distribute $350 million to groups of states participating in a separate competition to create new college and career-ready assessments.”

    This is modern educational funding??? Competition between the States for a piece of the taxpayers money?? Is this why Olympia keeps shifting its responsibility for funding K-12 education from the State to the school districts? Let the schools pass more levies, let the local taxpayers take a hit. That is fair, if you pass a levy you support the kids, if you do not, you are a failure as a district. Meanwhile, Olympia’s elected thinks all is well, another job well done.

    Horse puckey! K-12 needs fully funded by Olympia equally throughout all school districts. Then, and only then should the taxpayer be asked for “extra” funds. The “extra” funds (levy money) should not be used for full time teachers, their pensions, or new office furniture for the principle, it should be used on the students to ready them for college or the work force. Instead, we compete for funds and whine when we did not meet all the Federal requirements for the funding. “…high-profile policy levers.” Another way to say blackmail, coercion, or it’s my ball and we play the game my way. How professional and adult a method of funding for education this is.

    Maybe this should be used for all Federal funding. Watching the Army, Navy, Air Force, etc. compete openly for limited funds could be entertaining. We could apply this new funding method to many areas and at the same time increase our entertainment potential.

    Instead it is just another way for our tax dollars to be squandered in trying to “compete” for limited funds. It is pathetic.

    Roger Gay
    South Kitsap

  2. If the state was totally focused on fully funding all of the mandated education reforms passed since 1993, perhaps the $2.4 million in the budget for “Race to the Top” could have been sent to local school districts. Right now local levies pay for the part of transportation funding the state isn’t funding. That $2.4 million could have sent every school district in the state almost $10,000 to be put toward their transportation costs – not much but not chicken feed either.

  3. Catherine, you are right. It was appallingly evident last night at the NAACP Forum in Bremerton for the legislative candidates (23rd, 26th and 35th) and how completely out of touch some of our current legislators are. Sherri Appleton actually spoke about how “tired” she is of people stating that the education system in this state is falling apart and is facing an epic funding, achievement and accountability crisis. She went on to state that our system here in the US is superior to other countries including China and Great Britton and that we (the State of Washington) are currently educating “every child” and implied that she thought it was being done in a satisfactory manner. Seaquist was not any better. This is the second time I have had a chance to hear him speak about education and both times he came across as someone who did not think anything was wrong with the current system or the legislature’s way of handling it.

    Christine Rolfes, did get most of it right and Kathy Haigh and Linda Simpson were very knowledgeable and correct in their statements.

  4. Well said, Roger. You hit a few nails on the head. Washington State never had a serious chance at RTT funding. SPending so much time and energy on it was a waste of valuable time and effort, when we could have been spending that time and effort preparing to implement HB 2261, education funding reform.

    Lets work on equity right here in Washington State, with state funding! Education is the State’s paramount duty and yet our legislators keep putting off doing right by our students.

    The graduating class of 2018 is entering the 5th grade RIGHT NOW. Yet, the equitable education funding reform plan (HB 2261)won’t even commence until then. The class of 2031 has yet to be born, but they will be the first class to experience education funding reform in full.

    Think about it, folks! We are a generation and a half away from making things right, fiscally, for K-12 education and it is supposed to be our PARAMOUNT DUTY??? What is wrong with this picture????

  5. So the $10 billion dollar for education in federal jobs bill passed today. How much of it will actually end up in the local districts hands as a net gain? How much will really make its way into the classroom? It is touted as “saving” classroom teachers but how much of it will go to Administration and other support positions?

    The last time federal dollars went through the “Washington State Legislative Filter System” they played a very large part in a massive shell game by our elected officials that only backfilled existing state obligations. It did nothing to improve the financial situation for most districts and in Bremerton caused nothing to be “brought back” only “less cuts” to already reduced programs.

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