By Alyson Klein
Congress may have gotten rid of the Obama administration’s signature Race to the Top competitive-grant program in the “cromnibus” spending measure, which has been approved by both houses of Congress. But lawmakers kept two other stimulus-era Obama administration education-redesign programs: the School Improvement Grant program, which is aimed at turning around low-performing schools, and the Investing in Innovation grant program, which is meant to scale up promising practices at the district level.
But just because SIG and i3 are still around doesn’t mean there won’t be some changes to them.
via Congress Tweaks School Improvement Grants, i3 in Spending Bill – Politics K-12 – Education Week.
By Alyson Klein
The Obama administration wants to focus the next round of the Race to the Top program on bolstering educational equity for disadvantaged students, according to sources.
The administration’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal—which is slated to be released Tuesday—seeks a $300 million iteration of the administration’s signature Race to the Top program aimed at enticing schools to close the achievement gap. It’s unclear if the money would go to districts, states, or some combination.
The program would include a teacher-equity component, as well as seek to close gaps in other areas, such as student discipline. The administration has already put forth guidance to encourage districts to ensure that minority students aren’t punished more—or more harshly—than others. That move prompted questions in a letter from U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and other key Republicans on the panel.
via Obama to Propose Race to the Top for Educational Equity – Politics K-12 – Education Week.
By Alyson Klein
President Barack Obama placed education at the center of a broad strategy to bolster economic mobility and combat poverty—calling on Congress in his State of the Union speech to approve previously unveiled initiatives to expand preschool to more 4-year-olds, beef up job-training programs, and make post-secondary education more effective and accessible.
“Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-year-old,” said Obama, whose education agenda in his second term has shifted away from K-12 toward prekindergarten and college affordability. “As a parent as well as a president, I repeat that request tonight. But in the meantime, 30 states have raised pre-K funding on their own. They know we cant wait.”
via Obama Sells Race to Top, Early-Childhood Education in State of the Union – Politics K-12 – Education Week.
By Michele McNeil
The U.S. Department of Education today named 31 finalists for the second Race to the Top district competition, worth $120 million.
The winners include large urban districts such as Baltimore, Denver, and Houston, a handful of rural districts (such as a group from the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative), and at least one group of charter schools via Rocketship Education in California. Also, the TEAM Academy Charter School in New Jersey is a finalist.
via Ed. Dept. Names 31 Finalists for Race to the Top District Contest – Politics K-12 – Education Week.
By Michele McNeil
Today, the Obama administration will announce details of a $100 million competition for high schools that better prepare students for college and high-tech careers, U.S. Department of Education officials confirmed this morning.
First reported in the Wall Street Journal, the competition is shaping up to be a mix between the federal Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation programs, and will be funded and run through the Department of Labor. Between 25 and 40 grants will be awarded next year for high schools that team up with colleges and employers. The grants will range in size from $2 million to $7 million. Just as with the i3 competition, winners will have to secure private matching funds of at least 25 percent to get their grant.
via High Schools to Compete for $100 Million in New Race to the Top-Style Contest – Politics K-12 – Education Week.
By Alyson Klein
Race to the Top district applications continue to be an unlikely casualty of the federal government shutdown. Bids for the second round of the competition can’t be emailed—they have to be delivered through snail mail.
And they’re due today, at 4:30 p.m. shutdown or no shutdown, per the U.S. Department of Education’s website. But, as of early as this morning, applicants were still having problems getting their materials delivered, despite multiple tries through national carriers.
via Race to the Top Applications Still Due Today, Despite Shutdown Hiccups – Politics K-12 – Education Week.
By Alyson Klein
There’s been little impact so far from the government shutdown on K-12 schools around the country, but a handful of public and private school students in the Washington area are an unfortunate exception.
These students—roughly 40 in all—are part of a national program called Project SEARCH, which helps prepare students with disabilities for the workforce. The program, which is operated by a non-profit organization in Cincinnati, helps students and young adults with disabilities gain career experience and workplace skills through a blend of classroom instruction and on-the-job training. The interns, who are typically in their final year of eligibility for special education services, spend a year at a range of job sites, including hospitals, banks, and universities.
via Shutdown Hits Everything from Smithsonian Interns to Race to the Top Applications – Politics K-12 – Education Week.
By Michele McNeil
Nine months after the U.S. Department of Education named 16 winners to share $400 million in the first Race to the Top for districts, change orders already are being approved.
The 16 winners have pitched ambitious plans to dramatically improve their districts, with a focus on personalized learning (a top priority of the department’s). Already, the Education Department has approved eight amendments ranging from technical to more-significant as the districts seek to fine-tune their projects. If the Race to the Top state contest is any guide, there are many more district amendment requests surely in the pipeline.
via Race to the Top District Winners Already Changing Their Plans – Politics K-12 – Education Week.
SAN FRANCISCO – Secretary of Education Arne Duncan acknowledged serious flaws in the standardized tests that currently drive American schools, telling an audience of education researchers on Tuesday that the tests are an inadequate gauge of student and teacher performance.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Duncan criticized “high-stakes testing where children’s lives or teachers’ careers are based on one test,” but he said that abandoning standardized testing was not the answer. He listed a series of misguided uses of standardized tests, mentioning a school in Florida that evaluated teachers in kindergarten through second grade based on how students performed in third and fourth grade, and a school in Memphis that evaluated art teachers based on student scores in math and English.
via Duncan admits flaws in current standardized testing – by Jane Meredith Adams.
By Louis Freedberg
Some high level diplomacy is called for to end the Cold War between Sacramento and Washington that has frozen out the state from benefiting from the major education initiatives of President Obama’s education reform agenda.
The administration has awarded 34 states and the District of Columbia waivers from onerous provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind legislation signed into law a decade ago by Obama’s predecessor.
But the administration has rejected California’s request for a waiver from the law – the same one that President Barack Obama has criticized during most of the time he has been in office.
via Washington and Sacramento must end Cold War on education – by Louis Freedberg.
The Obama administration has been a big fan of using competitive grants to drive its agenda on everything from teacher quality to standards to “personalized learning,” much to the chagrin of some advocates for school districts.
So far, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have resisted that strategy. But Democrats in the U.S. Senate have continued to finance the administration’s favorite competitive-grant programs, such as Race to the Top, although not always at the level the administration has sought.
via Senators to Arne Duncan: Stop Flat-Funding Key K-12 Programs.
Get ready for more Race to the Top.
Armed with another $490 million, the U.S. Department of Education is poised to award new Race to the Top grants to districts for general education-improvement ideas, and to states for more early-learning initiatives.
About $120 million of the federal fiscal 2013 funds will go to a second round of the Race to the Top district competition, which awarded $383 million to 16 districts in 2012 for proposals that focused on personalized learning.
via Nearly $500 million From Race to Top To Fund Early Learning, District Ideas.
Sixteen winners—including three charter school organizations—will share $400 million in the Race to the Top district competition, the U.S. Department of Education announced today.
Traditional districts such as Carson City, Nev., Guilford County, N.C., and New Haven Unified, Calif., also are sharing the prize, as are two large consortia of school districts in Kentucky and Washington state.
Miami-Dade is the biggest urban district on the list, having just won the coveted Broad Prize this year.
via Arne Duncan Picks 16 Race to Top District Winners.
By Lillian Mongeau
Three California school districts are among 16 winners in the latest round of the federal Race to the Top funding competition. The relatively small districts beat out several of the state’s largest districts, which didn’t even make it into the final round.
This round of funding was the first in the series of Race to the Top competitions to be made available to individual districts. New Haven Unified in Union City, with about 13,000 students, was the largest of the California winners. Lindsay Unified, in the Central Valley midway between Fresno and Bakersfield, and Galt Elementary District, south of Sacramento, also won. Each of those districts has around 4,000 students. The three districts won a combined total of just under $50 million to implement a range of reforms.
via Three California districts win in federal Race to the Top competition – by Lillian Mongeau.
In a matter of weeks, we’ll know which districts are sharing $400 million in the latest Race to the Top competition, which targets the district level.
But in the meantime, there are a lot of unanswered questions about this contest. Let’s start with these five:
via Five Unanswered Questions About District Race to the Top.
By Kathryn Baron and John Fensterwald
The U.S. Department of Education passed over California’s largest school districts in selecting finalists for the Race to the Top district competition. Out of 17 districts that applied for a share of the nearly $400 million in federal grant money, only four made the cut to the finals: Galt Joint Union Elementary, Lindsay Unified and New Haven Unified school districts, along with Ánimo Charter Schools, a division of Green Dot Public Schools. Districts that didn’t make the cut include Los Angeles, Fresno and Clovis Unified.
via Four CA districts make Race to the Top finals – by Kathryn Baron and John Fensterwald.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has maintained that he would stick around for a second term if President Barack Obama is re-elected and asks him to stay on. Now, Duncan has that chance. During the next four years, Duncan—and any successor—will confront some significant issues.
via Five Issues Facing Arne Duncan in a Second Term.
By John Fensterwald
If they awarded points for effort, Fresno Unified would get two Race to the Top grants.
After a marathon meeting that concluded early Friday morning, Superintendent Michael Hanson and leaders of the Fresno Teachers Association agreed on wording of the district’s application for a $37.3 million piece of the $400 million competition open to districts nationwide.
It had looked like Fresno would join Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento City and Long Beach, members of a district collaborative, the California Office to Reform Education (CORE), whose unions had refused to give their required consent for the submission of an application, primarily because teacher evaluations using standardized test scores had to be an element. But Hanson used a three-day deadline extension, which the federal Department of Education granted districts because of disruptions caused by Hurricane Sandy, to keep trying to persuade the Fresno Teachers Association to say yes. Pressure mounted, as community leaders, two city council members, business leaders, and a group of ministers called on Teachers Association president Eva Ruiz to sign on.
via Fresno coaxes union to sign, enters Race to the Top – by John Fensterwald.
At a time when California has cut funding dramatically for K-12 education – and may have to cut more after next week’s election – it makes no sense for school districts to leave millions in federal education dollars on the table.
Yet California school districts have had to struggle to win teachers union support for a new round of Race to the Top competitive grants specifically for school districts – as much as $40 million per district, depending upon size.
This competition – for districts seeking to improve academic performance with personalized learning for students – is well worth pursuing in these tough financial times.
via Editorial: Why is teachers union leaving money on the table?.
By John Fensterwald
Nearly 900 districts nationwide, including 76 districts and charter schools in California, have told the federal government that they plan to compete for the final $400 million Race to the Top district competition. But with local unions having in effect a veto over their districts’ application, that number could dwindle.
It’s already starting. The executive board of Sacramento City Teachers Association voted last week to decline to participate, putting the kibosh on the district’s hope to join with Oakland Unified, San Francisco Unified, and two other districts on a plan to improve middle school math. The U.S. Department of Education is requiring that an application include the signature of the local union president as a sign that all parties will meet their commitments.
via Skeptical unions pose challenge to districts’ Race to the Top – by John Fensterwald.