Race to the Top – An Education Reform Initiative
Race to the Top, an education reform initiative founded in 2009 by President Barak Obama to prompt school improvement, is an option available to school administrators to not only improve the educational standards in their schools, but to help the school budget by financing them as well. The Race to the Top Fund is a competitive grant program created to reward educational reform and innovation at the state level. The requirements are to increase educational standards and assessments, improve data collection and its use thereof, help teachers to become more effective in their ability to reach and educate their students, and reverse the status of struggling schools.
So far approximately $4 billion have been awarded to a number of states. In March of 2010, Delaware and Tennessee were given $600 million in Phase 1 of the Race to the Top competition. In August of the same year, $3.4 billion was awarded to the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island in the second phase of the competition. In September 2010, and additional $330 million was awarded to two groups of states to help create new assessment tools which will align with standards set to determine college and career readiness. Nine other states, notably Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and South Carolina were listed as finalists in the Phase 2 competition. Though their proposals for reformation and improvement of their elementary and secondary education were excellent, the awarding of additional grants had to be postponed to Phase 3 of the competition for lack of additional funding at that time.
Enter Phase 3 of the Race to the Top competition for education reform and school improvement. As part of Public Law 112-10, signed by President Obama in April of this year, and additional $698.6 million has been made available based on previously submitted applications with an amendment to make grants available for the improvement of early childhood education. In fact, $500 million of the funds have been targeted for this area. This leaves approximately $200 million to fund the programs in the 9 states having already submitted “award winning” applications. Phase 3 of the Race to the Top competition includes all the previously stated goals such as showing significant improvement in student achievement according to the national standards, higher high school graduation rates and adequate preparation to guarantee success in higher education or a student’s chosen career. In addition the nine states must show a commitment to maintaining the programs they have already proposed with their phase 2 applications as well as proof that they will maintain appropriate levels of staff at the elementary and high school levels.
The Race to the Top education reform and school improvement initiative has and will benefit many of our students now and in the years to come. As will all significant changes in our educational system, time will tell if the money has been well spent. In the meantime the charge to improve the educational standards in our schools is a good one. We as administrators and educators owe it to our students to encourage their “Race to the Top” as individuals to guarantee their success in whatever path they choose.