Leaders from the U.S. Department of Education's Implementation and Support Unit (ISU) traveled to Nashville this week for an on-site program review with representatives from Tennessee's Race to the Top team. Over the course of the week, ISU representatives also met with district leaders, school leaders and teachers from the Metropolitan Nashville, Trousdale County, and Putnam County school districts.
The state team is executing Tennessee's $500 million Race to the Top grant, announced by the Department in March 2010 to support the state's comprehensive education reform plan to enhance and elevate student achievement. During the visit, ISU officials—Assistant Director of Programs Jim Butler, Director for Technical Assistance and Support Matt Gandal, and Race to the Top Program Officer Jessie Levin—assessed Tennessee'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.
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, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Department leaders and state leaders will also hold meetings to discuss progress and challenges.
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. This week's visit to Tennessee focused on the state's overall progress toward implementing reform around Race to the Top's four assurances – adopting rigorous academic standards, building data systems to support student and teacher performance, supporting and improving teacher and principal quality, and turning around persistently low-performing schools – as well as improving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
"We are very excited about the challenging work that Tennessee 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."
Over the last few months, teams from the ISU have conducted on-site program reviews 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.