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California Selected as a Finalist in Phase 2 of the Federal Race To The Top Competition

July 29, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell on Monday enthusiastically greeted California’s selection as one of 19 states that will be finalists in the competition to receive up to $700 million as part of Phase 2 of the federal Race to the Top (RTTT) competition.

“I am thrilled that our efforts to push for even more progress in improving public education were recognized by the U.S. Department of Education,” O’Connell said. “California remains in the running for the Race to the Top competition. We now will prepare to present our reform plan before reviewers in Washington. I remain optimistic that California will be granted funding that will help us ensure that we have effective teachers in every classroom, strong leaders in every school, common core standards to improve instruction, and an effective data system to ensure that every student is being prepared for success in college or careers.”

In a separate announcement, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said “California’s Race to the Top Phase Two application lays out a roadmap for the future of public education in California that empowers parents, embraces accountability, transforms under-performing schools and ensures effective teachers and principals for each student.  I am very pleased that the bold reforms being made by our school leaders to improve education for all students have been recognized by the Obama administration.”

California's Phase 2 RTTT application was built around the strong commitment and leadership of seven superintendents representing a diverse group of school districts: Clovis, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Sanger, and San Francisco unified school districts.  These seven superintendents were the primary architects of California's RTTT Phase 2 plan to transform the state's education system and strengthen California's ability to prepare all students for success in college and careers.  These districts were joined by more than 300 additional local educational agencies (LEAs) that pledged their commitment to implement California's Phase 2 RTTT plan by signing binding Memorandums of Understanding.

The participating LEAs represent more than 1.7 million California students, a student population that is larger than the total kindergarten through twelfth grade enrollment of all but six other U.S. states. These LEAs also serve some of the neediest students in the state, as 68 percent of the students in participating districts live in poverty.

California's RTTT Phase 2 application is rooted in four key areas of reform that call for:

  1. Refining California's rigorous state standards by adopting internationally benchmarked common core standards and aligned assessments that better prepare students for success in college and the workplace;
  2. Recruiting, developing, and retaining effective teachers and principals and ensuring that they are helping students that need them the most;
  3. Expanding our education data system to better measure student success in college and the workforce; and
  4. Dramatically improving the state's persistently lowest-performing schools.

California's Phase 2 RTTT application also emphasizes the critical goal of advancing the state’s students' understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). With funding from the federal government, the state plans to launch new partnerships with institutions of higher education, and strengthen and expand the delivery of STEM in California's high schools. The plan also includes an emphasis on building a strong STEM foundation in the kindergarten through eighth grade system, an expansion of support systems, and infrastructure for the future of STEM.

Finalists of the Phase 2 grants will present their plans before a review panel in Washington, D.C. on August 9, 2010. Finalists are expected to be announced in September.

Information on California's RTTT Phase 2 application may be found at http://www.caracetothetop.org.

Sources:  California Department of Education, Governor's Press Office