For parents: Making sense of Race to the Top

Race to the Top (RTTT) is $4.35 billion program designed by the US Department of Education to spur school reform activity in states, and states competed against each other to win a portion of that money and implement a variety of reform-related activities. Money was doled out in two rounds; Tennessee and Delaware were funded in the first round, and nine states and DC were funded in round two.

When the second round winners of RTTT were announced, my son’s school’s listserv buzzed that our state, Maryland, nabbed $250 million. What folks seemed to be asking was – How would that cash find its way to our school district and to our school? Well, it won’t, sort of, as one listserv poster reminded people: Montgomery County (where we live) and Frederick County school districts did not sign on to Maryland’s RTTT application, as they did not wish to take part in some activities outlined in the application. Now, these two school districts will still take part in state-wide RTTT activities; they just won’t get a cut of the money that will be directly distributed to school districts.

(In many states public charter schools are their own school district or LEA, local education agency, in ed world parlance; it’s worth a whole ‘nother post to look at how they will receive or be impacted by RTTT bucks.)

So, say you’re in a state and school district that was awarded RTTT money: Just what might your district do with that money? What might be its impact on your kid’s school?

I posed that question to a friend who works in a state education agency that got RTTT funding, and he wrote this: “Half of the [RTTT] money is going to the LEAs,” and much of that district-level funding will go “to professional development, some to technological solutions, STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] resources, instructional coaching, community engagement¬†initiatives,¬†etc.” He went on to say that the district’s RTTT money can’t be used for recurring expenses, such as class size reduction and personnel, although instructional coaches, as mentioned above, would be an exception.

The rest of this state’s money will be focused on larger, state-wide projects. “While the changes parents see might not be as obvious as those with local spending,” he finished, “they are going to see big changes in the assessments their children are taking, things being done in turnaround school districts, and the level of public reporting about teacher, school, and district effectiveness.”

What might a parent do to get further information about RTTT in his or her state or his or her school district? A few ideas: First, see below for the RTTT websites of those 11 states and the District of Columbia. For those 12 entities I tried to find three things that might be helpful: Information about the school districts that signed on with the state’s application and therefore will directly receive cash; a short ‘n’ sweet document, a one- or two-pager, about that state’s RTTT plan; and links to the full apps.

I’ll update the above as I dig around some more.

So, find your state. See if your district signed on. Print off the short ‘n’ sweet doc; dive into the state’s RTTT site or even into the full application. Take that short ‘n’ sweet doc with you to one of your district’s question and answer sessions – or email your school’s principal and have him or her send your query on to someone at the district. In fact, see if someone from the district can come to a PTA meeting and talk about RTTT, without jargony gobbledygook. And feel free to add your own ideas in the comment section below.

Have a good weekend!

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4 Responses to For parents: Making sense of Race to the Top

  1. Karen Baratz says:

    Hey Abner-
    I’m still unclear about why Montgomery County did not sign on to Maryland’s RTTT.
    Do you have any insight?

  2. Pingback: Tuesday Tidbits, October 12, 2010 | Dacha.com

  3. As a licensed attorney practicing in Minneapolis, your web site is a benefit to my legal practice. Thanks for your good materials.

    Aaron Hall
    Twin Cities Law Firm, LLC
    2812 Anthony Lane S, Suite 200
    Minneapolis, MN 55418-3234
    http://www.aaronhall.com/
    http://MinnesotaLawyer.com/

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