Federal Funding

Education Department Names Race to the Top Winners

The United States Department of Education Monday announced the winners in the first phase of the Race to the Top competition. Delaware and Tennessee have been awarded a combined total of about $600 million to implement school reform plans over the next four years. The second round of the program is now underway, with $3.4 billion available to states.

Race to the Top is a federal program focused on helping states boost student achievement. It's providing a total of $4.35 billion to create incentives for states to develop "innovative" programs that can be replicated throughout the country, with a particular emphasis on programs that satisfy principles outlined in the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which include creating and saving jobs; ensuring transparency, reporting, and accountability; and improving student achievement through school improvement and reform.

Delaware and Tennessee were selected from a field of 41 applicants, including 40 states and the District of Columbia. Sixteen of those had been named finalists earlier this month, including Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Winner were chosen based on scores assigned to them through an application peer review and a final interview.

Delaware came in first with a score of 454.6. Tennessee came in second with a score of 444.2. (All of the 16 finalists had scores higher than 400. A complete list of scores can be found here.)

Specific award amounts have not yet been decided, but, according to ED, Delaware will be awarded about $100 million, Tennessee about $500 million, depending on the outcome of final discussions.

In explaining the choice, Arne Duncan, secretary of education, said: "We received many strong proposals from states all across America, but two applications stood out above all others: Delaware and Tennessee. Both states 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."

Race to the Top now moves to phase 2. For the second round of funding, one change has been introduced to the rules. Specifically, applicants will be required to stay within the funding limits assigned to them in the Department of Eduction's new budget guidance, which can be downloaded here. (Actual dollar amounts in the guidance have not changed since round 1.) Applications that exceed guidance will not be considered, according to ED.

"We set a very high bar for the first phase," Duncan said in a prepared statement. "With $3.4 billion still available, we're providing plenty of opportunity for all other states to develop plans and aggressively pursue reform."

Second-round applications will be due June 1. Winners are expected to be announced in September.

Further information about Race to the Top an be found here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrnagel/ .