“We are setting a high bar, and we anticipate very few winners in phase one. But this isn’t just about the money. It’s about collaboration among all stakeholders, building a shared agenda, and challenging ourselves to improve the way our students learn,” Duncan said.

Of the $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funds provided under the Recovery Act, ED will distribute approximately $4 billion directly to states to drive education reform and $350 million to consortia of states that compete in a separate competition to create new college and career-ready assessments. The assessment competition is still in the design phase.

Duncan encouraged non-winning finalists and non-finalists to reapply in June.

The competition’s winners’ “bold blueprints for educational reform for states all across America will all be implemented over time,” Duncan said. “We expect the winners to lead the way and to blaze the path for the future of school reform for years, and even decades, to come.”

Based on Race to the Top’s early influence on national education reform, President Obama proposed to continue the program next year by requesting $1.35 billion in his FY 2011 budget.

Some of the reforms the program has encouraged have drawn criticism from education groups and teacher unions, such as spurring the growth of charter schools and using student test scores as an indicator of teacher effectiveness.

In a statement released March 4, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the list of finalists in phase one “includes states that could have—and should have—done better to work in true partnership with teachers, their unions, and other stakeholders. … As the process moves forward, we hope that every state will work to ensure that teachers’ participation and input is not simply sought but actually incorporated as an integral part of every stage of this process.”

She added: “In these tough economic times, the infusion of grant funds offered through Race to the Top will be seen as help for states and school districts facing budget shortfalls. However, this money is not intended to be, nor should it be, a substitute for adequate and sustained funding to support all our students and schools.”


Race to the Top