The Obama administration’s Race to the Top (RttT) grants are the most ambitious undertaking in education since special education became a required service in 1975. It is seeking dramatic changes in how states deliver education including standards and assessment, data systems to inform instruction, great teachers and leaders and school turnaround. It is funded for three years during which each winning state must accomplish the changes it proposed in its application.
Since the grants were awarded, 64 amendments have been granted ranging from extending timelines to changes in program partners to changes in teacher evaluation programs. A list of amendments can be found here. In addition teachers unions and state legislatures have been difficult in some cases, for example New York’s teachers union and Hawaii’s legislature. They have not provided the agreements and programs the states signed up for in their applications.
Already Hawaii is in danger of losing its grant. And other states are falling further and further behind their schedules. Is Race to the Top attempting too much change at too fast a pace? Can states meet their commitments?
These structural and substantive changes in RttT will need continuing support from the White House and Education Department if they are to succeed. Most importantly the elections in November will either provide continuing support or sound the death knell for Race to the Top.