States Ask for More Time to Meet Race to the Top Goals

March 20, 2014

Almost all of the 12 states splitting about $5 billion in federal economic stimulus money to re-imagine education policy have one thing in common: They need more time to get the job done.

Plans to adopt new math and reading standards, rework how teachers and principals are rated, turn around the lowest-performing schools, expand support for charter schools and access to STEM resources are coming along because of the Obama administration’s signature Race to the Top competitive grant program.

But states are struggling with various aspects of its requirements: Eleven of the 12 have asked for a fifth year to carry out their promises.

The Education Department posted a dozen reports Wednesday detailing the third year of work for states that won hundreds of millions of dollars during the first and second rounds of the competition. Lawsuits in Florida are threatening parts of the state’s teacher evaluation system. New York has to get past some project delays and has yet to spend a good chunk of its grant. Georgia has to come up with a federally approved merit pay system for teachers or could lose $10 million of its grant.

“There’s no state that’s doing this work perfectly,” Education Arne Duncan said during a call with reporters. He added that it’s too soon to draw conclusions about the program. “Every state is working hard … but again this is extraordinarily difficult work.”

The Education Department does say broadly that states show “encouraging signs of progress with improved scores on national benchmarks and access to more rigorous course work and resources like AP classes.” States are also developing tools and resources for school districts and educators, officials said.

Several states have gotten approval for an extra year — but no extra money — including Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Tennessee.

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