In 2009, President Barak Obama introduced a new educational incentive entitled “Race to the Top.” The incentive was geared to address a flagging educational system that promoted students into a world economy where they consistently were unable to compete.
Unlike his predecessor’s unfunded educational mandate of “No Child Left Behind,” Obama’s “Race to the Top” was a challenge not a mandate. The prize was a piece of 4.35 billion dollar educational grant from the United Stated Department of Education.
State application were graded on seven specific weighted criteria.
- Teachers and leaders. Applications asked states to improve teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance standards, equitable distribution of teachers and principals, and effective support and pathways for improvement for teachers. This section was 28 percent of the total application.
- Statewide success factors. Applicants were asked to explain their state’s plan for educational reform, their ability to implement the plan, and their resourcefulness in raising and closing educational gaps. This section was 25 percent of the total application.
- Common standards and assessments. Applications were graded on the state’s, adoption, support, and on-going enhancement of common standards and assessments. This section carried a 14 percent of the total application.
- General criteria. In this section of the application, states were asked to provide a welcoming atmosphere for innovative new schools and charter schools. In addition, the application asked states to make education funding a priority. The section was 11 percent of the total.
- Raising up the lowest achieving schools. States were asked to show how they would turn around the lowest achieving schools in their state. What were the specific plans and how would they be funded? This section was 10 percent of the total.
- Data Systems. States were asked to implement statewide data reporting systems and use the data to improve classroom instruction. This section was 9 percent of the total.
- Prioritizing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math added another 3 percent to the overall application.
Not all states competed for the grants. The reasons varied. In all 41 states competed for the Race to the Top Grants.