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In the past 18 months, the momentum for education reform has been gaining.  A quiet revolution is  underway in states and school districts, driven in part by incentives being offered by the Department of Education.  Just $5 billion in federal incentives – less than 1 percent of total education spending in America – has unleashed an avalanche of pent-up education innovation and reform activity at the state and local level.

Race to the Top

The $4.35 billion Race to the Top fund has generated unprecedented activity around the four areas of reform: adopting rigorous standards, elevating the teaching profession to reward excellence, turning around low-performing schools, and building better data systems to drive reform.

46 states and the District of Columbia submitted comprehensive reform plans to compete for the $4 billion available from Race to the Top’s state grant program. (Almost 90 percent of America’s 49.3 million public school students live in these jurisdictions.)

Delaware and Tennessee won the first phase of the competition. The District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island won the second phase of the competition.

12 winning states serve 13.6 million students taught by 980,000 teachers in 25,000 schools. These students represent 28 percent of all students in America, and include 40 percent of the nation’s African-American students, 19 percent of the Hispanic students, 27 percent of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander students, and 31 percent of the students with disabilities.

Beyond having a significant, direct impact on their own students, these states will help blaze the path for education reform across the nation.

In every one of the states that applied for a grant, stakeholders came together for tough conversations and put together thoughtful and comprehensive statewide plans to tackle reform.  Our Administration will actively encourage and support all of these states as they continue to move forward with their plans, and will foster cross-state collaborations around the critical education issues facing everyone.

Challenged by Race to the Top to reform statewide education practice:

34 states reviewed and changed state education laws or policies to make them more conducive to reform, including lifting caps on charter schools and promoting the use of student achievement data to inform teacher evaluations.

48 states worked together to create a voluntary set of rigorous college- and career-ready standards that are internationally benchmarked.

As of late August, 35 states and DC have adopted those standards. Those states enroll more than three-quarters of the students in the nation.

“Over the past decades, federal education policy has veered between the incredibly intrusive to the appallingly supine. The Obama administration, however, has used federal power to incite reform, without dictating it from the top.” [David Brooks, NYT, 6/3/2010]

“With only $4.3 billion — less than 1 percent of federal, state and local education dollars — Race to the Top is one of many small, relatively inexpensive projects that lawmakers plopped into the recovery act. What's striking about the competition, which awards millions to the states that best adopt Duncan-backed policies, is that the secretary arguably got more states to buy his brand of change in 18 months than any other U.S. school chief had in the Cabinet-level Education Department's 29-year history.”  [McClatchy Newspapers, 8/8/10]

The Race to the Top Assessment Program  dedicated up to $350M in Race to the Top funds for consortia of states that wish to collaborate in developing the next generation of tests to measure common


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