ED Releases Report Touting Race To The Top’s Success

USA Today (3/26, Jackson) reports that Education Secretary Arne Duncan released a report on Tuesday saying that the Race to the Top program “benefits 22 million students and 1.5 million teachers in more than 40,000 schools.” Noting that ED’s report says that “eighteen states and Washington, DC, have received a total of $4.35 billion in grants,” USA Today quotes Duncan saying, “The most powerful ideas for improving education come not from Washington, but from educators and leaders in states throughout the country.” Duncan is also quoted saying that RTTT is “touching nearly half the nation’s students, for an investment that represents less than 1% of education spending.” The article describes the uses to which the funding has been put, lists the states that have won and reports that White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz “said the program proves that the federal government, governors, educators, businesses, parents and students can work together to ‘provide the education that our young people need and deserve, to prepare for college and a successful career.’”

        The Washington Post (3/26, Layton) reports that Duncan and Munoz praised the program “for unleashing ‘enormous positive change’ in public school classrooms across the country” and “rattled off examples of what they said was proof that the $4 billion competitive grant was driving ‘dramatic change.’” The Post says that the report “was far more positive about the program than the Education Department’s own progress reports,” which have pointed to significant challenges some states have faced in spending their grants and enacting “the changes they promised in order to win their grants.” The article reports that Race to the Top was “a turning point in the way the Education Department used competitive grants,” since states had to implement changes just to apply. The Post notes that “teachers unions, school administrators and members of Congress” have criticized both the policies promoted through the program and the concept of funding “some states and not others.”

        Reuters (3/25) also covers this story, quoting Duncan saying of the program, “The compelling need for change was as clear as it was urgent. Race to the Top reflected our deep belief that carrots, rather than sticks, lead to lasting change.” Noting that critics of Race to the Top fault it for not evenly increasing funding to all schools, Reuters quotes the School Superintendents Association’s Noelle Ellerson saying, “The continued reliance on competitive funding creates winners and losers, and reinforces and exacerbates learning and resource gaps.”

        The Black Star News (3/26) also covers this story.

        Duncan, Munoz Credit RTTT For Positive Changers. The Hechinger Report (3/26) runs an analysis on the report, noting that many RTTT states “have followed through on promises to adopt the Common Core State Standards and launch new teacher evaluations,” while “others are still working on it.” The article explores whether the program can be deemed a success, noting that reporters asked Duncan and Munoz “whether it was really fair to claim Race to the Top was behind the rising test scores and declining number of dropouts nationally.” The piece quotes Munoz saying, “The point is that by holding students, schools and the whole system accountable, we’re seeing progress.” The Hechinger report quotes Duncan responding, “We’re not satisfied, but we’re absolutely pleased that graduation rates are at an all time high. We think [Race to the Top] resources and opportunities contributed to that.”

        In its coverage, The Hill (3/26) quotes Duncan saying, “Although we have so much more work still ahead of us, the report that we released today shows that reforms are having an impact in states across the country.” The Hill adds that Duncan, asked whether rising graduation rates and NAEP scores can be attributed to RTTT, “clarified that the program contributed, but he gave credit to teachers, principals, boards of education and students.” Regarding congressional inaction on education reform, the piece quotes Duncan saying, “Congressional action to change No Child Left Behind, as we all know, is six years overdue. But without action, we’re simply not waiting, and neither are our states.”