Only two winners for Race to the Top, and we’re not one of them. But wait. We were third. Round 2, here we come.

Ok, we didn’t win, but apparently we were in third place, which, as the governor’s office just told me in an e-mail,  “…puts us in great position to win in Round 2.”

Only Delaware and Tennessee won Race to the Top grants, meaning that not only Georgia was shut out, but the presumed favorite, Florida.

This is a blow to the governor and school Superintendent Kathy Cox, both of whom were confident that Georgia had the goods to nab one of the lucrative grants. But the governor’s spokesman says we are in a great position to win in the next round when the remaining $3 billion is doled out to states.

I wonder if size mattered in that smaller states and enrollments seemed easier to manage. Delaware only has 127,000 students in 204 schools, including 30 high schools, six vo-tech schools, 39 middle schools, 96 elementary schools, 14 kindergarten and early childhood facilities and 16 special schools.

I am surprised at the choices as neither Tennessee or Delaware has been held up as a top model of reform. The two states that had a lot of buzz were Louisiana and Florida.

However, what the two winners have in common is more advanced teacher evaluation systems.

Tennessee has a student data system that can connect student performance/progress to specific teachers, so it is ahead of the game in the “value-added” approach to evaluations, a key plank of the U.S, DOE RTTT criteria. Delaware already has a statewide annual teacher evaluation system and agreed to now look at student growth in its evaluations.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

The fact that just two states won will placate critics, who warned that the administration appeared to be watering down its own standards for the awards. Skeptics have also raised concerns that the Race to the Top program, a cornerstone of the administration’s education policy, would reward states making big promises instead of only those best prepared to impose real change.

Delaware originally sought $107 million to help pay for a plan to turn around its worst schools. Tennessee sought $502 million. The administration appeared to put a very high value on applications that had won wide support from unions and school boards within their states. Florida’s bid, for instance, received the support of just 8% of its unions.

The administration made its selection from a list of 16 finalists, which also included the District of Columbia, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.

And from the Wilmington News Journal in Delaware:

To make Delaware more competitive for the grant, Gov. Jack Markell proposed — and the state Board of Education approved — regulatory changes to how failing schools are restructured and educators are evaluated.

The state also recently partnered with the Boston nonprofit Mass Insight Education and Research Institute for a turnaround program for failing schools.

Under Mass Insight’s plan, schools would work with an outside organization, called a “lead partner,” which would be given broad authority over operations of failing schools. Methods to turn around the school could include changing the principal and half the staff or converting a failing school into a charter. The proposal of a lead partner has caused tension between the state and Delaware’s largest school employee union, the Delaware State Education Association.

And from the Washington Post:

Georgia, ranked third in the contest, and Florida, considered a favorite to win, fell just short of a threshold for awards that Duncan set himself. More than $3 billion remains in the fund, and they could win some in a future round.

Duncan’s decision to name only two initial winners gives the Obama administration continued leverage to upend the status quo in public education. It also squelches any suggestion that Duncan would seek to spread the money around as much and as fast as possible to help Obama win favor in key political states.

Ohio, Pennsylvania and dozens of others have come up empty so far in their bids for school reform aid. Delaware is the home state of Vice President Joe Biden, but administration officials have said repeatedly that politics would play no role in the contest.

And from The New York Times:

Mr. Duncan has insisted that political influence would play no part in the competition. But by choosing two states led by Democratic governors, and by eliminating two strong contenders, Florida and Louisiana, both governed by Republicans, the administration might face grumbling.

Andy Smarick, a Republican who served in the White House and in the department under President George W. Bush, said: “I don’t think that political influence was a primary determinant here, but it could have had a secondary effect because the Democratic leadership in both states got all or almost all of their educational establishments to sign on.”

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, was able to negotiate the state’s teacher evaluation plan with the teachers unions, thus strengthening his state’s proposal, Mr. Smarick said. Delaware’s plan, too, got virtually 100 percent backing from the teachers unions, he said.

Florida and Louisiana also put forward strong proposals. But the largest teachers union in Florida urged its locals not to support the plan. And in Louisiana, only 28 of the state’s 70 districts supported the state’s plan, which alarmed local officials by calling for forceful interventions in hundreds of failing schools.

58 comments Add your comment

Northern Visitor

March 29th, 2010
11:10 am

Unimpressed

March 29th, 2010
11:16 am

Thank god, Buddha, Allah, Native American spirits, Ra, Vishnu and all the others…

The General

March 29th, 2010
11:16 am

YAAAAAAAAAAY

Seriously, I’m glad we weren’t chosen. Maybe the ill-conceived merit-pay crapola of an idea will go away now. One can only hope.

The General

March 29th, 2010
11:17 am

Enter your comments here

The General

March 29th, 2010
11:18 am

YAAAAAAAY

Seriously, I’m glad we weren’t chosen. Now the ill-conceived merit-pay crapola of an idea will go away. One can only hope.

Cun Spel Gud

March 29th, 2010
11:18 am

That is rather disapointing.

The General

March 29th, 2010
11:18 am

Help I’m stuck in the filter!

Hall County

March 29th, 2010
11:20 am

The VP’s home state and a state they think they can flip in the next elections. Its politics not merit based.

Brian

March 29th, 2010
11:20 am

Biden’s State got one, and a State that its retiring congressmen voted for Obamacare. Who would of thunk it?

The General

March 29th, 2010
11:22 am

Good catch guys. I never thought of the (political) reasons these two particular states may have received this award. Just glad it wasn’t us.

south ga teacher

March 29th, 2010
11:24 am

Thats right it had no support! Because it would NOT HELP! Amazing that it seems that they took the responses into consideration!!!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: Only two winners for Race to the Top, and we’re not one of them http://bit.ly/9q9SOa [...]

DigALittleDeeper

March 29th, 2010
11:27 am

Education is at the bottom of the list of “importance” in Georgia, why should the US DOE waste money? Education is not a priority in this state and the “GA idiots for leaders” couldn’t sell the lie.

MiltonMan

March 29th, 2010
11:28 am

Delaware??? What if aything worth a nickel has Delaware done recently.

Cobb Parent

March 29th, 2010
11:29 am

I wouldn’t call myself thrilled that we missed getting money that’s sorely needed. But, I never subscribed to some/many of the standards in the RTTP application guidelines. Data and testing are fine and are needed, but too much imo reduces the value of an education. I want kids that come out of elementary school with a love of reading, not kids that have been drilled to maximize their chances of getting the right bubble right. I thought my son received an excellent education through my local system and I don’t believe standardized testing played any part in helping him learn how to learn.

The General

March 29th, 2010
11:30 am

@ MiltonMan

Our illustrious VP hails from that state. That is all.

d2

March 29th, 2010
11:33 am

Another angle, besides political ones (which I tend to agree that it is mostly political), is the fact that these plans had the backing of teachers. The ones that were rammed down the teachers throat here in Georgia and Florida–all because it was based on money not the well-being of education-did not have the backing of teachers. Instead of focusing on putting money into education, our state focus on sending 98,000 100page full color tab binders to each teacher and tried to ram down another change in the standards. Teachers can’t become effective in one standard long enoght until they change again.

d2

March 29th, 2010
11:34 am

should be long ENOUGH

Attentive Parent

March 29th, 2010
11:35 am

I’m really surprised too. Are they rethinking the size of the program now that Social Security itself has gone into the red years ahead of expectations?

This was in this morning’s Washington Post from a well-known economist.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/28/AR2010032802353.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Scary scenario coming soon at the federal level just as things also look dim in the states and many school districts.

A perfect fiscal storm?

JackTeach

March 29th, 2010
11:37 am

Praise God. Thank you for answered prayer. Now let the citizens of Georgia have back the money that already belongs to us and we will educate our own. Let Obama and Duncan fix the DC schools first since they think they can reform something. Prove it. The two idiots could not run a home school.

Maureen Downey

March 29th, 2010
11:41 am

Miltonman, As a graduate of the University of Delaware, I like the state, but I have to agree with you that I am not sure why a state with 127,000 students and a fairly straightforward application beat out others with more aggressive reforms.
But I am certain that the expert dissections will begin shortly and we can discuss.
Maureen

Attentive Parent

March 29th, 2010
11:51 am

Maureen,

Here’s Fordham’s initial take:http://www.edexcellence.net/flypaper/index.php/2010/03/my-initial-rtt-assessment/

Need stakeholder support AND a strong enough application.

Maureen Downey

March 29th, 2010
11:53 am

Attentive, Apparently, we were third in line so it may well be that we win next time.

fulldawg

March 29th, 2010
11:55 am

The is Georgia’s gain and Tennessee and Delaware’s loss. Now maybe bills like SB 386 and its sponsors can both be discarded.

MiltonMan

March 29th, 2010
12:03 pm

Maureen, my intentions were not to insult anyone from Delaware but I was surprised by the decision. Living in North Fulton, you expect your schools to be top-notched so maybe I have been “spoiled” by this. Thanks

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kanika and stanley lines, Bryan Tyson. Bryan Tyson said: Bummer! RT @ajc: Ga. did not receive a Race to the Top grant (coveted Fed. grant for education). *Sigh*. http://bit.ly/afr2iz [...]

Pete

March 29th, 2010
12:11 pm

Perhaps it’s time for our leadership in the Governor’s office, the DOE, and the legislation, to now look at some “participatory leadership” and start to get some real ideas from “folks in the trenches”. No more of this small sample study garbage. It’s time we start hearing from all stakeholders- teachers, parents, and students- about how we can really effect change in education.

Randy

March 29th, 2010
12:12 pm

How funny is it watching Republican Sonny Perdue knee-walking up to Washington, begging for a bail-out?

No leadership = No spine

catlady

March 29th, 2010
12:14 pm

Would you give money to a state that hasn’t maximized its use of educatinal resources for the last 8 years? Think of your hard-luck uncle. He wastes his money on things like horse barns and fish ponds, and then says he will do better if only you’ll give him some money. Same thing.

catlady

March 29th, 2010
12:15 pm

or educational resources, either.

hotlanta

March 29th, 2010
12:15 pm

Wow Perdue finally asking for some money from Washington. It is now too little too late. It’s a shame that they acting as if someone stole thier pony since President Barak got elected and the whole state is suffering. Now he finally feels that he has to do something.The quicker he leaves the better.

Pete

March 29th, 2010
12:15 pm

Why do I not proofread before hitting submit!? Legeslation should be LEGISLATURE.

catlady

March 29th, 2010
12:19 pm

Randy, kind of like those folks in Cobb Co who swore so loudly at the “stupid, no-good bums” of NOLA, but were down at the aid office signing up two days after the flooding last September. Those who rail about “taking care of yourself” and “accepting responsibility” suddenly had group amnesia.

Lumpkin Bumpkin

March 29th, 2010
12:19 pm

From a teacher perspective down here in the trenches, it looks like even if we teachers get thrown under the bus, sometimes the bus just keeps on going!

Attentive Parent

March 29th, 2010
12:19 pm

A subsequent Fordham take is to point out that they want the ESEA reauthorization to be bipartisan and hope to get Lamar Alexander (TN) and Mike Castle of Delaware on board.

It seems like support for Ga’s app and the participating districts diminished as more was learned about the terms such as merit pay, the 4 year payout, and the uncertainty around Common Core.

Will there be more or less support for Round 2?

One lesson of studying the history of the PRISM grants in Georgia is that there can be a very high instructional price at the local level when the states pursue grant money that they will promise anything to get.

The question should be what will result in a better education for Georgia’s students, not what must we promise on behalf of children and teachers in Georgia to get federal money.

catlady

March 29th, 2010
12:22 pm

Great points, Attentive Parent!

union

March 29th, 2010
12:33 pm

I think we should look at Delaware and Tennessee’s proposals carefully. They seem to have teachers’ unions’ support, including the merit pay idea that was a prerequisite for this grant. Instead of just saying “no” as many teachers here seem to, we should look at the system teachers in other states are saying yes (or at least “maybe”).

uberVU - social comments

March 29th, 2010
12:36 pm

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajc: Ga. did not receive a Race to the Top grant (coveted Fed. grant for education). *Sigh*. http://bit.ly/afr2iz…

Educator - gwinnett

March 29th, 2010
12:48 pm

Well, let’s see…. they have no teacher organizations that support their merit pay plea and if my school is any indication, they have about 95% of teachers who don’t support them in their efforts either. It sounds like a failing grant to me, so why would they win?

Lynn

March 29th, 2010
12:49 pm

The student data system that can connect progress to specific teachers was actually developed by a Professor in Tennessee. I heard him speak several years ago when I served on the Master Teacher Implementation committee. He was very impressive.,

What he said, however, sometimes gets lost. He said that a good teacher can make progress with a student. He never said “catch the student up” or “make years of academic gain in a matter of months.” He just said progress.

We have a real challenge across this country. How do we remediate students and how do we do it well? How do we help students who are behind while still moving others ahead?

E. Cobb Parent

March 29th, 2010
12:56 pm

GA has a history of doing anything for money regardless of what is in the best interest of the kids. PRISM is a great example. I’m happy that GA did not get money this round and hope we don’t get the RTTT funding next round, too many strings attached. Maureen your post sounds as if you want GA to get the funding, why?

love it

March 29th, 2010
12:59 pm

K. Cox and sunny really dont have a clue. the new national standards have career or college ready. HMMM, Delaware has Vo-tech schools, does that mean they have multiple tracks to graduate? One size fits all, Im right your wrong, is the same thing the Feds are doing to us in Healthcare and it would seem GA government gave them the idea. Is any critical thinking going on at the capital at all? Step back and think; is the agenda I want more important than the students (message Im gettin from KC and sunny).

B. Killebrew

March 29th, 2010
1:43 pm

Good question, E. Cobb Parent.

(from a “grew up in” East Cobber)

catlady

March 29th, 2010
1:45 pm

Maybe the teachers of TN and DE trust their state government more than GA teachers do!

Cobb County Voter

March 29th, 2010
2:09 pm

Sadly, it’s all about the money. The common core standards weren’t really an improvement, so I’m glad we’re not beholden to the feds with RTTT funds. However, Cox and her misfit crew have been waging an experiment with our school children for years. Check out the NSF and PRISM grants and you will see the latest edufads are in full force. The sooner we ditch Cox, the better!

CA Civility

March 29th, 2010
2:16 pm

The fact that two out of about forty states only received funding is
a huge political mistake (States invested all that time and work and
less than five percent of the total states that applied received funding).
The name of the educational program “Race To The Top” probably
comes from a book by Tomas Larsson by the same title. The book
basically focuses on the advantages of globalization and competition
,but sees trade unions and government workers as a threat to
competition and the developing of the poor in various societies.
Georgia educational leaders and state legislators should think
carefully about the long term consequences of acquiring short
term funding for long term changes to state’s educational system.

An advocate for public education change & choice

March 29th, 2010
2:59 pm

@CA Civility: I disagree with your comment. I would suggest the fact they didn’t fall all over themselves to throw money at a complex problem is a poltical win. Especially given the hypersensativity over Federal spending of just about any stripe.

I think Union, Attentive Parent & Lynn all made thoughtful points. I which those in positions of authority at the State DOE and sitting on local boards of education would embrace simular common sense reasoning.

Teaching in FL is worse

March 29th, 2010
4:25 pm

I’m relieved!

I had to laugh when the Wall Street Journal mentioned only 8% of the unions in Florida supported the application. They don’t have unions any more than Georgia does!

FC teacher

March 29th, 2010
4:26 pm

On the one hand Sonny begs for money from the fed, and on the other he wants to sue the fed for passing healthcare reform. Think anybody in DC noticed?

Race To The Top Winners | VsCon

March 29th, 2010
5:17 pm