“I think Florida feels very good about the progress we have made,” Stewart said.
Duncan praised the states for making “tremendous strides” in the first year. Maryland, Massachusetts and Ohio are all on schedule, and the District of Columbia, Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Tennessee are all considered to be moving in the right direction with plans.
“These twelve states created aggressive plans that set a high bar for reform, setting out to accomplish extraordinarily tough work that comes with its share of challenges,” Duncan said. “We are supporting states to help them achieve their goals. At the same time, we will hold them accountable for those commitments.”
Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, said states overpromised on what they could do and how fast.
“I don’t think the states will fully achieve what they promised to do but they will make progress toward those goals,” he said, noting “these are very difficult problems to solve.”
Two upcoming surveys from the center show Race to the Top states are in better shape in implementing common core standards, setting uniform benchmarks approved in most states compared to those that didn’t win.
The reports released Tuesday come four months after Chiefs for Change, a coalition of education leaders, wrote a letter encouraging Duncan to hold all winners accountable for improving achievement and implementing proposals.
“I think what you’re seeing now is implementation challenges,” said Eric Smith, Florida’s former education commissioner. “As with any reform effort .. as you get into the weeds on some very challenging issues there are adjustments that need to be made.”
The Race to the Top competition sought to award states for agreeing to undertake ambitious education reforms. Dozens changed laws, introduced new teacher evaluation systems and lifted caps on charter schools in order to compete for the funds. The National Council on Teacher Quality issued a report in October that noted even several states that didn’t win funds have moved forward with reforms. It also noted that some Race to the Top states have not succeeded with legislative or regulatory changes to improve teacher effectiveness.
“In terms of teacher evaluations, I think most of the Race to the Top states really have their noses to the ground and are really moving ahead,” Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the Washington-based research and policy groups said. “There are certainly challenges. It’s a very heavy list they are trying to undertake.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the second largest education union, said the delays aren’t surprising.
“States that applied for Race to the Top did so because they were cash strapped and looking for money anywhere, from any source to help kids,” she said. “And then what they tried to do is try to figure out how to take that money and apply it for the purposes intended and realize it’s a lot more complicated.”