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Race to the Top Application: Huge Time Thief?


Schools and the StimulusStates that want a piece of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund will have to roll up their sleeves and put in some manpower.

According to the U.S. Department of Education's criteria, it's going to take states a total of 642 hours to complete the applications.

That means that it would take two staff members, working full-time on just the Race to the Top criteria and nothing else, about two months.

The time requirements, advocates say, might be particularly tough on rural states that just don't have a lot of extra capacity. (Of course, some lucky states—such as Kentucky—seem to be getting a hand from the Gates Foundation with filling out their applications).

The time crunch could have an even bigger impact on districts that have to provide states with much of the information, advocates say. Again, that might be particularly tricky for rural districts that don't have a lot of personnel to devote to the applications.

The department's draft regulations ask states and other stakeholders to comment on the paperwork burden, so we'll see if that's a recurring theme once the comments start rolling in.

My co-blogger, Michele, is working on a story about this issue of capacity, and is looking for more perspectives. So, what do you think? Are there too many hoops to jump through? Or is this a good way to set a high bar early on the process, in that if you want a Race to the Top grant, you're really going to have to log some time?


Of course, for those states who don't win approval of their application, they're out of luck...time wasted.

But let's say a small state uses those 642 hours and gets $100 million of RttT funds. That translates to about $155,763 per hour. Not a bad payoff.

It's 10 people, working about a week and a half. Or, as Darren notes, much $ per hour.

Moreover, most state education agencies get at least a third (some get half or more) of their admin $ from feds. So they're using fed $ to apply for fed $.

Name me another grant applicant in the public or private sector that gets that good a deal.

So far the SEAs are getting little or no admin money related to the stimulus. As "prime recipients" we're required to report on several different programs each calendar quarter, with subrecipient (district) data on jobs and vendors. The spreadsheet for reporting only came out yesterday, and the guidance on how to count jobs is conflicting and confusing at best. As to RT3, there are some pretty restrictive eligibility metrics, so if those aren't changed after comment, it's questionable how many states will even be eligible to apply.

642 hours worth of work in sixty days? Okay sure, when you break down the total amount of money per hour that seems very rewarding; however, this statistic simply does not matter. What are we measuring here: more money to states that are larger and have more staff/resources to devote to applying? Also, a rush in applications means that they cannot be run through with a fine-toothed comb, allowing for mistakes on states' part.

It is highly commendable that the Gates' Foundation is lending a hand in Kentucky. If the government really wants this to be done effectively and, more importantly, fairly, in the amount of time alloted, it will give struggling states aid in the process.

As long as social workers drive our educational standards rigor will not exist. Scaling scores is another way of dumbing down. We will never be successful until we teach children how to work hard and if they fail how to learn from their failures.

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