ABC News' Mary Bruce Reports: The Obama administration announced ten winners this morning in the second round of the Race To The Top stimulus grant competition for education reform: The District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island.
Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia applied for a portion of the $3.4 billion remaining in the competition. That list was narrowed down to nineteen finalists last month. The finalists that did not make the cut are Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.
States were judged based on their proposals to adopt the department’s reform goals. Those goals include: embracing common academic standards, improving teacher quality, creating educational data systems, and turning around their lowest-performing schools.
In the first round of the competition, announced in March, Delaware was awarded $100 million and Tennessee $500 million. In the second round of the competition the Education Department is limiting the amount that a state can receive based on its student population. For example, large states like New York could be awarded as much as $700 million while smaller states like Hawaii are limited to $75 million.
By using cash as the ultimate carrot, the competition has incentivized states to make dramatic changes to better compete. For example, after failing to win the first time around legislators in New York recently raised the cap on charter schools in the state, doubling the number to 400. Other states, including the District of Columbia, approved plans to allow teacher evaluations based on student achievement, a practice that teachers unions have long opposed.
Despite early signs of success, Race To The Top has faced fierce criticism. With many states in financially dire straits, some critics claim the federal funds should be more equally distributed. And just last month, civil rights organizations joined together to insist that access to federal funding be based on need, not competition.