Education Insider: RttT and I3

Over the last year, no education story has generated more discussion, excitement, and debate than Race to the Top. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) gave the Secretary broad discretionary authority to use $4.35 billion to spur and support state-level reforms.

States competed for between $20-$700 million by developing comprehensive plans that addressed how they would create the conditions for education reform and pursue ambitious reforms in the areas of standards & assessments, teacher & principal effectiveness, enhancing data systems, and turning around low performing schools. Winners were selected based on a peer process using 19 selection criteria allocating more than 500 points.

States responded. Forty-eight states worked with NGA and CCSSO to develop the Common Core Standards and more than 37 adopted the standards. To make themselves more competitive, 13 states changed laws to eliminate barriers and caps for charter schools and 17 states adjusted their teacher evaluation systems to include student achievement. A total of 46 states and the District of Columbia applied during Phases 1 and/or 2. In the end, 12 won: the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.

ARRA also provided $650 million that the Department used to create the Investing in Innovation fund (I3). The grant competition was designed to support school district, non-profit, and consortia efforts to start or expand research-based innovative programs that help close the achievement gap and improve outcomes for high-need students. The program generated immediate enthusiasm from education entrepreneurs and organizations that had been seeking the funds needed to scale their solutions or to test out new approaches. The Department received nearly 1,700 applicants, with 49 selected as finalists. But before these 49 could be designated as "winners," they first needed to secure private matching funds. To help, more than 45 foundations came together to form the Foundation Registry I3 to help facilitate the process with the foundation community. In September, the Department announced that all 49 had indeed secured their match.

Both competitions generated a wide range of both praise and criticism. Secretary Duncan has said that, "with a budget of just $5 billion dollars -- less than one percent of total education spending in America -- this minor provision in the Recovery Act has unleashed an avalanche of pent-up education reform activity at the state and local level." However, some reformers were puzzled by how Colorado and Louisiana, both of which have been herald for their reforms, were not awarded grants but Ohio, Maryland, New York, and Hawaii were. A clerical mistake with New Jersey's application not only kept them from securing an award but may actually slow the Governor's reform agenda as the state legislature engages in investigations and finger pointing.

With I3, concerns arose around that the program guidelines made it too difficult for for-profit entities to not only directly compete for funds but also be part of consortia. Applicants also struggled with determining if their evaluation evidence would meet the rigorous requirements. One reformer quipped that, "we‰'re more likely to spot the potential for innovation watching developments with iPad than i3; watching TechCrunch more than Ed.gov; watching NEA.com more than NEA.org."

Given the debate, we asked our Insiders to assess not only both programs but what we should expect in the future. The questions we asked included:

  • How successful was RttT in driving forward education reform and I3 in supporting and scaling innovation?
  • How durable and sustainable are the changes brought about by RttT?
  • How likely is Congress to appropriate FY 2011 funding for additional Race to the Top and I3 competitions?
  • How likely is Congress to adopt the Administration's proposal to conduct both State- and district-level Race to the Top competitions?
  • If Republicans gain control of the House of Representatives in the November elections, will they conduct oversight hearings into the RttT and i3 competitions and scoring?
  • Which RttT winner is the state to watch in terms of driving forward ambitious reform?
  • Will we see the same three levels of evidence required for I3 used as criteria for other Federal grants?
  • Will Congress tweak the eligibility requirements for I3 to make it easier for for-profit innovators to participate with non-profits and LEAs?
  • What impact will "Waiting for Superman" have on the national debate about education policy?
  • And more...

Subscribe today to download the full report and join us on Wednesday, October 13 from 2-3:00pm EST for a discussion of the findings. Joining us to discuss the report:

Timothy Daly, President of The New Teacher Project (TNTP). Since his appointment in 2007, he has helped lead the organization‰'s efforts to end educational inequality by aligning policies and systems to better support teacher effectiveness. Prior to his appointment as President in 2007, Tim served as Vice President for Policy, helping to launch a team that published influential analyses of teacher equity issues in school districts such as Portland, Milwaukee, and New York. In 2009, he played an instrumental role in shaping the publication of The Widget Effect, a groundbreaking exploration of our failure to recognize or respond to the differences in teacher effectiveness. Tim has been with TNTP since 2001 and previously worked with teacher pipeline programs such as the NYC Teaching Fellows, which today has more than 9,000 active teachers in over 1,100 schools across New York City. Tim began his career in education as a Teach For America corps member at Northeast Middle School in Baltimore. He holds a BA in American Studies from Northwestern University and a MA in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University.

Peter Cunningham, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education. In this position, he leads the Office of Communications and Outreach (OCO), composed of more than 125 employees and charged with broadcasting the president and secretary's education agenda, as well as supporting federal education policy development and promotion. Prior to joining the Department, Cunningham was president of Cunningham Communications, a Chicago firm specializing in communications for local government, politics and nonprofits. Cunningham began his career as a reporter and writer for business and general interest publications, including the Southampton Press. He went on to work for several years as a speechwriter for the Illinois attorney general's office, the Finance Committee of the Chicago City Council, and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.