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Funding, Grants & Awards | News

Feds Approve Mods to NY and MA Race to the Top Projects

Two states that received Race to the Top (RttT) grant funding from the federal government are the latest states that have received permission to amend their projects. The United States Department of Education notified both Massachusetts and New York that at least some requested revisions are approved.

The two major rounds of the Race to the Top competition gave $4.35 billion in competitive grants to 11 states and the District of Columbia to promote reform in four areas: standards and assessments, professional development of teachers and leaders, school turnaround and data systems. The funds must be spent by September 1, 2015; otherwise, remaining money reverts to the U.S. Department of Treasury. Changes to the original plans are allowed as long as the revisions don't change the overall scope or objectives of the original proposal.

All of the winning states in RttT have requested and received amendment approvals through their multi-year participation in the program. In March the Department of Education released an online annual performance report to allow people to follow state progress toward their publicly stated goals.

In Massachusetts half of the $250 million in RttT funding it received was allocated to the state's Department of Elementary & Secondary Education for enhanced data systems, model curriculum, evaluation and other state infrastructure. The balance of funding there has been given to about 250 participating districts and charter schools that have signed on to the challenge of implementing RttT programs at the local level.

The amendments approved there will allow the state to reallocate unspent funds to stretch the timeframes for work already underway. For example, in one project Massachusetts has selected six "turnaround operators to build organizational capacity to manage chronically underperforming schools." the state has already teamed up with the District Management Council "to develop protocols, timelines and management tools" to support the design and restarting of these schools. Now it will be allowed to use $1.16 million to expand the number of turnaround operators it works with and refine the system it's using to identify and intervene in the underperforming schools.

In New York, which received $697 million, half of the funds were dedicated to state-level activities, distribution to schools and other purposes, and half went to districts that receive Title 1 funding and meet the state's requirements to qualify as "participating" districts.

There, $16.7 million for a grade 6-8 assessment for teacher and school leader evaluation project will be reallocated to support districts vying in a competitive grant program to develop assessments and prepare educators for instruction related to the Next Generation Science standards and a state K-12 social studies framework.

In both cases, wrote Ann Whalen, the fed's director of Policy and Program Implementation in its Implementation and Support Unit, "It is our understanding that these amendments and no-cost extensions will not result in a change in your State's performance measures and outcomes, nor will they substantially change the scope and objectives of the work."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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