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RTTT Phase 2 Grants Go Mostly to Eastern States – California Out of the Running Again

August 26, 2010

The federal Department of Education awarded 10 grants totaling around $3.4 billion on Tuesday in the Race to the Top Phase 2 competition.

And once again, California’s application failed to attract any Race to the Top funding.  (California also came up empty in the first round of Race to the Top earlier this year.)

“I am deeply disappointed that our application was not chosen as a winner in the Race to the Top competition,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell. “However, the loss of the funding may slow, but not defeat, our efforts to improve student achievement in California. We remain fully committed to continue seeking the strategies and resources demanded to accelerate our efforts to close the achievement gap among different groups of students by creating fundamental and far-reaching reforms.

Gov. Schwarzenegger’s top education adviser – Bonnie Reiss, California’s Secretary of Education, issued a statement that didn’t speak directly to California getting no funding in this round. Reiss said “California’s Race to the Top application established a bold roadmap for the future of public education.  The historic education reforms signed into law to empower parents to have a true voice in their children’s education and to transform under-performing schools, as well as the collaboration begun by our participating school districts will continue to move forward.  We remain firmly committed to the goal of ensuring that every classroom has an effective teacher and every school has an effective principal so every student in California graduates prepared for college and career success.”

Unlike California’s Phase 1 application (which was largely assembled in Sacramento), California’s RTTT Phase 2 application was put together with help from seven district superintendents – from the Clovis, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Sanger, and San Francisco unified school districts.  Some 302 local educational agencies (LEAs) signed memoranda indicating they would participate if California got RTTT Phase 2 funds.  The participating LEAs represent more than 1.7 million California students, a student population 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.

Long Beach Unified Superintendent Chris Steinhauser told the Long Beach Press-Telegram he was disappointed, because the funds could have been used to save jobs, train teachers and support intervention classes for struggling students.

“Am I disappointed? Absolutely,” Steinhauser said. “Do I feel that we aren't going to continue to do great things? Absolutely not.”

“We are going to continue to do great things, but it just makes we want to work harder to get the resources that are needed for my teachers and for my students,” he added.

There were 36 applications (35 from states, plus one from the District of Columbia) from RTTT Phase 2, from which 19 applications were picked as finalists.

The 10 winning Phase 2 applications in alphabetical order are: the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island.

According to the federal Department of Education, while peer reviewers rated these nine states and the District of Columbia as having the highest scoring plans, very few points separated them from the remaining applications. The deciding factor on the number of winners selected hinged on both the quality of the applications and the funds available.

“These states show what is possible when adults come together to do the right thing for children,” said federal Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Every state that applied showed a tremendous amount of leadership and a bold commitment to education reform. The creativity and innovation in each of these applications is breathtaking,” Duncan continued. “We set a high bar and these states met the challenge.”

The 10 winning applicants have adopted rigorous common, college- and career-ready standards in reading and math, created pipelines and incentives to put the most effective teachers in high-need schools, and all have alternative pathways to teacher and principal certification.

California’s Phase 2 application came in 16th among the 19 finalists.  For Phase 2, California scored 423.6 points from the federal peer review panel. (The top scoring state in Phase 2, Massachusetts, scored 471 points. The tenth place finisher – the lowest to get Phase 2 funding, was Ohio, with 440.8 points)

Back in March during the first round of competition supporting state-based reforms, Delaware and Tennessee won grants based on their comprehensive plans to reform their schools and the statewide support for those plans.

To see the federal Department of Education’s documents relating to RTTT Phase 2 awards, click here.