Archived Information

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's statement on Race to the Top Phase 1 Winners



Thank you for joining me today for this historic announcement.

Today, I'm proud to announce that Delaware and Tennessee have won grants in the first phase of Race to the Top.

We received many strong proposals from states all across America, but two applications stood out above all others: Delaware and Tennessee. These states received the two highest scores in the competition. Both of them have statewide buy-in for comprehensive plans to reform their schools. They have written new laws to support their policies. And they have demonstrated the courage, capacity, and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve outcomes for students.

All along, we said we would set a very high bar for success because we know that real and meaningful change in public education will only come from doing hard work and setting the highest expectations.

Both Delaware and Tennessee cleared that bar. They made commitments to raise their standards. They have strong plans to create meaningful teacher evaluation systems. Their schools rest on foundations rich with data, and they will be using this data to help teachers and principals accelerate student achievement. Both states have made deep commitments to turning around their struggling schools and their innovative plans reflect that commitment.

Tennessee's application includes examples of excellence from its cities, suburban towns, and rural areas. Tennessee's plan truly is a statewide effort. In particular, it will reach rural areas with a STEM initiative to increase high school rigor and has a specific plan to recruit teachers into rural areas.

Delaware also has a strong application that will reach every corner of the state and has the full support of its teacher's union.

Perhaps most importantly, every one of the districts in Delaware and Tennessee is committed to implementing the reforms in Race to the Top, and they have the support of the state leaders as well as their unions. We're confident that all students in both states will benefit from this program. We will be working with them to finalize their budgets and will closely monitor whether they're reaching their benchmarks over the course of the four years of their grants.

Although we have two winners for Phase 1, every state that applied is a winner. Everyone who applied is helping to chart the path forward for education reform in America. And the biggest winners of all are the students.

And the Race to the Top doesn't end today.

The good news is that about $3.4 billion remains to be awarded. Every other state in the country will have the opportunity to apply in the second phase. I want to challenge every state to put their best foot forward. Just by participating in the process, states are bringing people together to collaborate and create the policies that will accelerate student achievement.

We want to help states improve their proposals and share great ideas. On our Web site, we're posting the scores for every application and all of the reviewers' comments. By the end of next week, we'll post the video of every finalist's presentation to the peer reviewers. We also have asked teams from Tennessee and Delaware to participate in our April 21 workshop for Phase 2 applicants to share their ideas and approaches to statewide collaboration and reform.

We're providing all of these resources to help states succeed in creating comprehensive reform plans that will result in better results for children. I urge all states to set high expectations for themselves and take advantage of the opportunity to create strong plans to move reform forward. Applications for Phase 2 are due on June 1. That leaves time for states to do the hard work necessary to write the comprehensive plans necessary to succeed in school reform.

Finally, I want to announce that we are making one change to the Phase 2 application. In order to fund as many states with strong applications as possible, we are capping budgets. For Phase 2, states' budget requests have to be within the ranges that were suggested in our notice inviting applications. We will not accept budgets that exceed the top of a state's range. You can read about the proposed change on the Department's website today or in the Federal Register later this week.

So far, the Race to the Top has been an extraordinary success. It's been little more than a year since Race to the Top was created in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Since then, this historic program has been a catalyst for education reform across this country, prompting states to think deeply about how to improve the way we prepare our students for success in a competitive, 21st century economy and workplace.

We now have two states that will blaze the path for the future of school education reform. I fully expect all 48 states to be refining and improving their ideas, vying to join them as leaders for reform in decades to come. We look forward to supporting that hard work in Phase 2 and beyond. President Obama has proposed an additional $1.35 billion for Race to the Top in fiscal 2011 so we can continue to support more states in moving reform forward.

Let me close, then, by thanking Delaware and Tennessee for their leadership, and by urging everyone else to continue to use this opportunity to drive meaningful educational reform across your states.

Thank you for your time. I'm joined here by Joanne Weiss, who's leading this effort on behalf of the Department. Joanne and I are ready to take your questions.