The US Department of Education announced the 2 winners of the Race to the Top grants this past Wednesday. Though Massachusetts made it to the list of 16 finalists it lost out to Tennessee and Delaware.
In the announcement and the call with reporters Secretary of Education Arne Duncan discussed how the winners had been selected and the impact of the program overall.
Worcester’s own University Park Campus School was pointed out by Governor Patrick back in January as an example of what can be done with creative education initiatives. He visited the school as part of his review of the school system and as part of the Race to the Top application process.
The University Park Campus Program is run in partnership with Clark University and is a great example of a pilot school that can make a significant impact. Located in the Main South Neighborhood of Worcester it serves underprivileged kids. Opened in 1997 it graduates percentages in the 90s with similar percentages going to college. Though this is a great example of initiative and desire to reform schools it seems that the US Department of Education and particularly Secretary Duncan is looking for more Statewide impact.
Secretary Duncan talked about the winners touching 100% of the student base. He was looking for systemic reform with statewide impact. Massachusetts final ranking in Phase 1 was lucky 13. The scoring was over a variety of areas that could total up to 500 points. Massachusetts scored 411.4 versus Number 1 Delaware which scored 454.6. The applications with the reviewer comments are on the Department of Education website and can be reviewed by all.
Secretary Duncan made some remarks about how the Race to the Top has actually had a broader impact since it has motivated states to look at the state of their education. It has also gotten them started on a path to reform that according to his conversations with all the Governors involved will continue even though they did not win the grants.
The good news is that there is a Phase 2 to Race to the Top where there will probably be somewhere between 10-15 winners. These are scheduled to be announced on June 1. For Phase 2 you are basically starting from scratch in the application process and the requests for grants will be capped based on the size of your state.
The following is just a summary of how Massachusetts compared to Delaware. More details can be found on the DOE website:
A. State Success Factors
B. Standards and Assessments
C. Data Systems to Support Instruction
D. Great Teachers and Leaders
E. Turning Around the Lowest-Achieving Schools
The areas where there is a biggest differences are in A and D categories. Based on comparing both states at the more detailed levels available for A and D it looks like Delaware was better able to articulate their reform agenda which was a significant part of the A. State Success Factors. The other area of greater difference was in D. Great Teachers and Leaders where it seems Delaware has a better performance based system for improving teachers and principals.
The transparency of the application process allows all states to assess where they may be lacking and put forth a better effort in Phase 2. Massachusetts is not that far behind in all the other areas so being able to focus on doing better in the areas where they were not strong should greatly improve the odds of winning in Phase 2. According to their press release about the loss Massachusetts is not deterred and is set to begin the work of resubmitting.