U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today released the final application for more than $4 billion from the Race to the Top Fund, which will reward states that have raised student performance in the past and have the capacity to accelerate achievement gains with innovative reforms.
"The president said last week that Race to the Top will require states to take an all-hands-on-deck approach," Duncan said. "We will award grants to the states that have led the way in reform and will show the way for the rest of the country to follow."
The U.S. Department of Education is asking states to build comprehensive and coherent plans built around the four areas of reform outlined in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The application requires states to document their past success and outline their plans to extend their reforms by using college- and career-ready standards and assessments, building a workforce of highly effective educators, creating educational data systems to support student achievement, and turning around their lowest-performing schools.
The $4.35 billion for the Race to the Top Fund is an unprecedented federal investment in reform. Duncan will reserve up to $350 million to help states create assessments aligned to common sets of standards. The remaining $4 billion will be awarded in a national competition.
To qualify, states must have no legal barriers to linking student growth and achievement data to teachers and principals for the purposes of evaluation. They also must have the department's approval for their plans for both phases of the Recovery Act's State Fiscal Stabilization Fund prior to being awarded a grant.
The final application released today includes significant changes to the proposal released by the U.S. Department of Education in July. After reviewing responses to the draft proposals from 1,161 people, who submitted thousands of unique comments, ranging from one paragraph to 67 pages, the U.S. Department of Education restructured the application and changed it to reflect the ideas of the public.
"The public's input on this application was invaluable to us," Duncan said. "The comments helped us clarify that we want states to think through how they will create a comprehensive agenda to drive reform forward."
The final application also clarifies that states should use multiple measures to evaluate teachers and principals, including a strong emphasis on the growth in achievement of their students. But it also reinforces that successful applicants will need to have rigorous teacher and principal evaluation programs and use the results of teacher evaluations to inform what happens in the schools.
In Race to the Top, the department will hold two rounds of competition for the grants. For the first round, it will accept states' applications until the middle of January, 2010. Peer reviewers will evaluate the applications and the department will announce the winners of the first round of funding next spring.
Applications for the second round will be due June 1, 2010, with the announcement of all the winners by Sept. 30, 2010.