March 2010 Archives

What the Race to Top Judges' Scores Tell Us

Behind the overall scores for the Race to the Top applicants is a complicated 500-point grading scale that weighs each state's plan according to more than a dozen different categories. The peer reviewers' scores and comments shed more light on the method behind the Race to the Top scoring madness. After a quick review of the 16 finalists' scoring charts, here are some highlights I picked up: Why Delaware and Tennessee won—In addition to the reasons detailed here, it's clear in looking at the judges' scores that the full panel of five peer reviewers agreed these were strong applications,...


Delaware and Tennessee Get Round 1 Financial Bonus

The Education Department has made an important change to Round 2 of the Race to the Top competition that has big—and not necessarily positive—implications for the remaining 48 states and D.C. if they plan to seek a share of the $3 billion or so still left. In Round 2, Race to the Top awards will be capped at levels outlined in what originally were the Education Department's original nonbinding estimates. Those estimates will now be binding. That means Round 1 winning states Delaware and Tennessee, in addition to bragging rights, got a financial bonus, too: Their grants...


Updated: Delaware and Tennessee Win Race to Top

Only 2 of 41 applicants are victorious in Round 1 of this $4 billion education-reform competition.


Why Delaware and Tennessee Won Race to the Top

In two words: stakeholder support. Both states had strong plans and significant buy-in from local school districts and teachers' unions. Other reasons the two states won, according to the Education Department: Delaware • Unanimous participation, broad collaboration: 100% of the state's districts and teachers signed on; 100% of the state's students will benefit; stakeholders include governor, state education department, local districts (LEAs), unions, business community • New state law on teacher/principal effectiveness: no educators can be rated as "effective" unless their students demonstrate satisfactory levels of growth; teachers rated as "ineffective" for two to three years can be removed from the ...


Race to the Top Winners Coming Out Monday

So it's finally here, or almost here ... The U.S. Department of Education says it will announce the lucky winners in the first round of the $4 billion Race to the Top competition on Monday. There were 16 finalists this time around, but the department hasn't yet said how many winners to expect. But it seems likely the number will be on the small side. Joanne Weiss, the department's Race to the Top guru, told state officials there would be plenty of money left in Round 2. Those that don't make the cut will get feedback from the peer reviewers ...


Can States With Such Big Budget Woes Really Race to the Top?

With the Race to the Top winners expected to be announced "very soon," it seems particularly urgent to start thinking about what the winning states will actually do with all of their money. And whether it will do any good... As I've blogged before, all of the states--except Pennsylvania--asked for more money in their RTT applications than what the Education Department had estimated as a top-of-the-line grant. Which brings up important questions about a state's capacity to deliver on its grand promises, with less money. This question become even more critical when you look at the potential winners, and just ...


Congressional Pushback on Race to the Top, Competitive Grants

Last week, lawmakers began to turn up the pushback on the department's budget proposal, including an extension for the $4 billion Race to the Top program for another year. Much of the ire came from the House Appropriations Committee, especially its chairman, Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wisc., who has questioned the administration's reform agenda in the past. Here's a snippet from his opening statement at a hearing last week on the U.S. Department of Education's fiscal year 2011 budget, at which Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified: That request includes over $3.5 billion for new and untested initiatives, ...


Who Shouldn't Bother Applying for i3?

Those who don't know what the terms "internal validity" and "external validity" mean. That's the message that came through loud and clear at Friday's technical assistance planning seminar in Baltimore, which the U.S. Department of Education put on to help folks navigate the Investing in Innovation, or i3, grant application process. This $650 million grant program is open to school districts, and nonprofits that partner with a school district or a consortium of public schools. Applications are due May 11, with awards announced in September. And if attendance at Friday's seminar was any indication, the department is going to ...


Houses Passes Loans Bill, Minus Early Ed.

Obviously, this is the biggest news out of Congress this weekend. But, as we've mentioned before, a major change to the student lending program is hitching a ride with the health care overhaul. The most important details for K-12 folks are that a) the bill shores up and provides an increase for Pell Grants, which expand access to college for low-income students, and b) in shoring up the Pell program, this bill may indirectly help appropriations for other key K-12 programs, including new Obama priorities. The bill's supporters told me that if it didn't pass, they would have to find ...


Early Ed., Community College Initiative, Facilities Aid Out of Student Loan Bill

Democratic leaders couldn't find enough savings through elimination of subsidized student loans to cover new pre-K, new community college program, and school facilities programs.


Senate Education Panel Seems Fairly Happy With ESEA Blueprint

Maybe the senators were too busy dealing with health care and student loans to think of many zingers for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this morning, or maybe they really do like the direction of the Obama administration's blueprint for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Either way, the tone of a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing at which Duncan testified on the administration's plan was surprisingly congenial, with key players (including Republicans) praising both Duncan and the draft. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the committee's chairman, who also oversees the panel that deals with ...


Ten Questions About ESEA Reauthorization

So, the places to see and be seen tomorrow are the two Capitol Hill hearing rooms where U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be taking questions from lawmakers on the House and Senate education committees about the ESEA blueprint. He'll start off in the Senate (at 10 a.m.) and move over to the House (at 2:30 p.m.) As I've said before, reaction from many groups has been generally positive (except, of course, the unions). But we haven't heard much from lawmakers, beyond canned statements (I guess they're busy with this), so the hearings should be ...


What Reaction to Obama's ESEA Proposal Might Mean

So I'm sure you're well aware by now that the Obama administration released its blueprint for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. You can check out our story here and take a look at the full document online here. When I made calls to get reaction for the story, what jumped out at me was the fact that, for the most part, lots of people seemed basically pretty happy with the general direction of the blueprint. (That wasn't the case nearly three ago, when Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, ...


Democratic Leaders Want to Twin Student Loan Bill With Health Care

Remember we told you that the student-loan bill might hitch a ride with the health-care bill through that wonky procedural mechanism known as budget reconciliation? Well, it looks like the administration and the chairmen of both the House and Senate education committees officially want that happen. But it's unclear whether the rest of Congress will go along with that plan or what the final loans package will look like, including whether some new education programs that would be created under the House version of the bill will be in the mix. Some background: Last year, the Congressional Budget Office (Congress' ...


ESEA Renewal: What We Know So Far

It sounds like the Education Department is edging closer and closer to releasing its draft proposal on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. And even though we haven't seen a comprehensive draft, a lot of the details have already been made public, either through announcements from the White House, the fiscal 2011 budget proposal, Race to the Top regulations, or U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's speeches. For instance we already know that: *The Obama administration wants to replace the current metric for gauging student achievement—adequate yearly progress—with a system that measures whether students...


Senate Education Committee Holds First ESEA Hearing

Last week, the House Education and Labor Committee kicked off its hearings on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. And today, it was the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee's turn. As in the House, there was virtually no discussion of any of the major ESEA proposals the Obama administration has put forward so far, including tying Title I money to rigorous common academic standards and replacing adequate yearly progress with a new mechanism for gauging college-and-career readiness. There may be more concrete reaction next week. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is scheduled to testify next ...


Jennings Encourages Activism in D.C. Remarks

After urging students and teachers to try to "change the world," federal school safety chief Kevin Jennings insisted Monday that conservatives' calls for his resignation haven't affected his visibility.


Senate Education Committee to Kick Off ESEA Renewal

We've heard a bit about the process for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the House, while the Senate has been relatively silent on the issue. But it sounds like that could change tomorrow when the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee holds its very first hearing on renewing the law. The hearing's title? ESEA Reauthorization: The Importance of World-Class K-12 Education for our Economic Success. Sounds like they're starting out with an "economic competitiveness/job creation strategy," which makes sense from a messaging standpoint, given that in survey after survey, the public says it wants Congress ...


Student Loans Could Hitch a Ride With Health Bill

So it looks like Congress will attempt to push through health care overhaul by using the procedural mechanism known as "reconciliation," which doesn't require a 60-vote majority in the Senate and generally deals with taxes and deficit reduction. Why does that matter for education? Well, if it happens, there's a good chance an important student lending bill that could become part of the broader legislative package. And, as folks who are following this will remember, that student loan bill would provide some major new money for early-childhood education programs and community colleges (including dual enrollment and early-college high schools). The ...


Arne Duncan Set to Pledge Renewed Focus on Civil Rights

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan plans to promise in a speech today to reinvigorate enforcement of civil rights laws in U.S. schools by issuing guidance and implementing compliance reviews.


UPDATED: Race to the Top Finalist Presentations: Points for 'Courage'?

Given Education Secretary Arne Duncan's statements yesterday that any one of the 16 finalists could win a coveted Race to the Top grant, it drives home the point of how important the in-person presentations will be later this month. After all, Duncan has said "very few"—as in less than half—will actually win these awards when they're announced in April. Apparently, the point spread is so close that these state presentations, in which teams of five will make their closing arguments to the peer reviewers, will determine who wins millions, and who leaves empty-handed. Based on my conversations...


15 States Plus D.C. Are Named Race to the Top Finalists

The candidates will come to Washington later this month to make their pitches for part of the $4 billion pot of economic-stimulus grants.


Duncan Covers Familiar Territory in ESEA hearing

Sing along if you know the words: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sketched out his proposal for revising the Elementary and Secondary Act today before the House Education and Labor Committee. Not only were there no new specifics, there were very few new phrases from the secretary. On including incentives in ESEA: Duncan said that under current law, there are "fifty ways to fail" but very few rewards for success. On common standards: "It's an idea whose time has really come." On accountability: We need to be "tight on goals" but loose on means. And although few folks ...


Race to the Top: When States Ask for Too Much Money

Can these ambitious states, if they win, really deliver on their Race to the Top promises? Especially if they get less money than they had banked on?


Re: Race to the Top, We Regret to Inform You...

Politics K-12 has learned that states will get the official word on whether they make it as a finalist for Race to the Top at 11:30 a.m. Thursday. And the news will come via email. So, as you're filling out your own Race to the Top Madness bracket, Politics K-12—with a big assist from Teacher Beat's always-snarky Sawchuk and State EdWatch's Lesli Maxwell—offers up our own version of what those winning, and losing, emails will sound like. Dear (Insert Winner State Name Here), Congratulations! You are one step closer to having Arne Duncan show up at your...


Senators to Duncan: Don't Forget Rural Schools

Twenty-two Democratic senators from rural states are telling Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that he should make sure rural schools get a fair shot at all that competitive grant money the department is seeking in its fiscal year 2011 budget request. The senators hail from largely rural states, many of which are considered "red" or "swing" states in presidential elections, including Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. You can read the full letter here, but the important point is that the senators appear especially concerned that some of ...


Race to the Top Madness

My colleague over at State EdWatch, Lesli Maxwell, and I teamed up to put together our Race to the Top Madness bracket. We should know the finalists any day now. For more about the reasons behind our selections, check out Lesli's blog. In the meantime, here's our bracket predicting the finalists and the winners. Who would you cross off—or who would you add—if you did your own bracket?...


Obama Touts School Improvement Plans

Even though this Associated Press story makes it sound like President Obama is making big news today with a school improvement plan, it's really old news. According to the story, he's using an America's Promise Alliance education event to tout the four turnaround models that are tied to acceptance of the Title I School Improvement Grants. We've written about this endlessly. And his news peg is that he now wants to devote some $900 million to it; again, we've already covered this, courtesy of EdWeek's Alyson Klein, as part of our budget coverage. Obama's scheduled to speak in just a ...


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