A team of leaders from the U.S. Department of Education's Implementation and Support Unit (ISU) travelled to Columbus today for an on-site program review with representatives from Gov. Kasich's office and Ohio's Race to the Top team.
The state team is executing Ohio's $400 million Race to the Top grant, awarded by the Department in August 2010 to support the state's comprehensive education reform plan to enhance and elevate student achievement. During the visit, ISU officialsDirector Ann Whalen, Assistant Director Jim Butler, and Race to the Top Program Officer Rebecca Zazoveassessed Ohio's progress toward implementing and achieving the goals described in their plan as well as identified areas where the Department can provide support and technical assistance.
"We are very excited about the challenging work that Ohio and other Race to the Top grantees are doing," said Assistant Director Butler. "We are working closely with each State to ensure that they're receiving the support they need to implement their plans and to create long-lasting reform that benefits students and transforms education across their State."
Ohio's Interim State Superintendent of Education, Stan Heffner, joined members of Ohio's Race to the Top team to welcome the ISU team and spent the day talking about the work that is being done for the children of Ohioat both the state and local level. "Race to the Top gives us a real opportunity to support state-based efforts to increase student achievement, enhance teaching and learning, shrink the achievement gap, and increase the number of students graduating high school college and career ready," said Heffner. "It is exciting to be a part of transforming Ohio's education system into an effective, efficient engine of opportunity, academic achievement, and economic growth."
The on-site program review is one of several steps in an ongoing review process coordinated by the Department and the state teams implementing Race to the Top plans. The process includes ongoing conversations between the Department and grantees, on-site program reviews, and grantee self-evaluations. In addition to on-site reviews, the process includes meetings where U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Department leaders, and state leaders discuss progress and challenges.
"This is a timely opportunity to share successes, challenges and continued opportunities for growth with the U.S. Department of Education's ISU team as we approach Ohio's first Race to the Top anniversary," said Michael Sawyers, Assistant Superintendent and Director of Race to the Top initiatives. "Ohio is at the forefront of a national education reform movement that will accelerate the academic growth of our students. Ohio is very proud of the commitment demonstrated by our participating public and community schools to date."
Last year, the Department of Education awarded $4 billion in grants to support bold plans to reform education in 11 states and the District of Columbia. The Department created the ISU team to support Race to the Top states as they do the tough work of reforming their schools. Today's visit to Columbus focuses on Ohio's progress in building statewide capacity for their education reform plan and the state's efforts to improve teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance.
Two of Ohio's Race to the Top Regional Coordinators also attended the meeting to discuss the progress in implementing deep transformational requirements. Maggie Niedzwiecki, the Northeast Regional Coordinator, represents the largest number of participating public and community schools in Ohio. Scott Spears, the Central Regional Coordinator, was joined by representatives from the Worthington City Schools, who shared how the federal grant has created momentum toward change and solidified the district's purpose.
Over the next few months, teams from the ISU will conduct an on-site program review with each of the 12 Race to the Top grantees: Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. In the fall, the Department will use the information gathered during the program review process to create state-by-state reports and a national performance review that will be posted on the Department's website.