Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
(a) Adopting internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace;
(b) Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve their practices;
(c) Increasing teacher and principal effectiveness and achieving equity in their distribution; and
(d) Turning around our lowest-achieving schools. Additional information on the Race to the Top program can be found at:
We published a notice of proposed priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria (NPP) for this program in the
There are a number of differences between the NPP and this notice of final priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria as discussed in the
In response to our invitation in the NPP, 1,161 parties submitted comments on the proposed priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria.
Generally, we do not address technical and other minor changes, nor do we address suggested changes that the law does not authorize us to make under the applicable statutory authority. In addition, we do not address general comments that raised concerns not directly related to the NPP.
The Race to the Top program, a $4.35 billion fund created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), is the largest competitive education grant program in U.S. history. The Race to the Top Fund (referred to in the ARRA as the State Incentive Grant Fund) is designed to provide incentives to States to implement large-scale, system-changing reforms that result in improved student achievement, narrowed achievement gaps, and increased graduation and college enrollment rates.
The ARRA specifies that applications for Race to the Top funds must address the four assurance areas referenced in section 14006(a)(2): Enhancing standards and assessments, improving the collection and use of data, increasing teacher effectiveness and achieving equity in teacher distribution, and turning around struggling schools. The Department published the NPP to solicit public comment on the priorities, requirements, and selection criteria that State applications will address in accordance with this statutory requirement.
The NPP prompted an outpouring of public comments. Some 1,161 commenters submitted thousands of unique comments, ranging from one paragraph to 67 pages. Parents submitted comments, as did professional associations. From the statehouse to the schoolhouse, scores of public officials and educators, governors, chief State school officers, teachers, and principals weighed in with suggestions and critiques. All told, individuals from all 50 States and the District of Columbia, including over 550 individuals and 200 organizations, commented on the NPP.
The extensive and thoughtful public commentary on the NPP has been invaluable in helping the Department revise, improve, and clarify the priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria for the Race to the Top program. A discussion of the most significant changes follows.
Many of the commenters expressed concern that the NPP's encouragement of comprehensive and coherent statewide reform was undercut by the need for State applicants to organize their plans around each of the four reform assurances, one at a time. In response to this concern, the Department has reorganized a number of the criteria, moving key criteria from the Overall section to a new section at the beginning of the selection criteria called State Success Factors. This new section provides States with the opportunity to start their proposals with clear statements of their coherent, coordinated, statewide reform agendas.
As several commenters noted, States face at least three overarching issues critical to their success in implementing their Race to the Top plans—the need for a coherent reform agenda, the capacity to lead LEAs, and the ability to improve outcomes. In this notice, these three issues are reflected in the State Success Factors as follows: Criterion (A)(1) pertains to a State's ability to articulate a comprehensive and coherent education reform agenda, and to engage its local educational agencies (LEAs) in strongly committing to and participating in that agenda; criterion (A)(2) relates to a State's capacity to implement its proposed plans through strong leadership, successfully supporting its LEAs in improving student outcomes, administering a grant of this magnitude efficiently, and organizing its financial resources to optimize impact; and finally, criterion (A)(3) asks States to demonstrate their ability to significantly improve education outcomes for students across the State.
More specifically, criterion (A)(1)(i) is a new criterion that asks States to set forth a comprehensive and coherent reform agenda that clearly articulates their goals for implementing reform in
Under criterion (A)(1)(ii) (proposed criterion (E)(3)(iv)), States will demonstrate the participation and commitment of their LEAs. First, as described in criterion (A)(1)(ii)(a), the strength of LEAs' commitments to their State's plans will be evaluated based on the terms and conditions in a State's binding agreements with its LEAs. (To support States' efforts, the Department has drafted a model Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and included it in Appendix D of this notice.) Criterion (A)(1)(ii)(b) has been added to make it clear that the commitment of participating LEAs will also be judged, in part, based on LEAs' agreements to implement all or significant portions of the work outlined in the State's plan. Criterion (A)(1)(ii)(c) clarifies that the extent of an LEA's leadership support for participating in the State's Race to the Top plans will be assessed by how many signatures are on the binding agreement between the State and the LEA, from among (if applicable) the superintendent, the president of the local school board, and the local teachers' union leader, or their equivalents (provided that there is at least one authorized LEA signatory on the agreement). For all of these criteria, States will be asked to provide as evidence examples of their participating LEA agreements as well as tables that summarize which portions of the State plans LEAs are committing to implement and how extensive the LEAs' leadership support is.
Criterion (A)(1)(iii) (adapted from proposed criteria (E)(3)(iv) and (E)(4)) asks States to describe how the engagement of those LEAs that are participating in the State's Race to the Top plans will translate into broad statewide impact on student outcomes, including increasing achievement and decreasing achievement gaps for (at a minimum) reading/language arts and mathematics on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and on the assessments required under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA); and increasing high school graduation rates, college enrollment rates, and college credit accumulation.
Criterion (A)(2) asks States to describe their capacity to implement, scale up, and sustain their proposed plans. Criterion (A)(2)(i) (adapted from proposed criterion (E)(5)) concerns States' capacity to implement their plans. Criterion (A)(2)(i)(a) asks States to demonstrate that they have strong leadership and dedicated teams to implement their statewide education reform plans; and criterion (A)(2)(i)(b) (proposed (E)(5)(ii)) encourages States to describe the activities they will undertake in supporting participating LEAs in successfully implementing their plans. Criterion (A)(2)(i)(c) (proposed criterion (E)(5)(i)) asks States about the effectiveness and efficiency of their operations and processes for implementing a Race to the Top grant. Criterion (A)(2)(i)(d) (proposed (E)(5)(v)) further clarifies that States will be evaluated based on how they plan to use the funds for this grant, as described in their budgets and accompanying budget narratives, to accomplish their plans and meet their performance targets. Proposed criterion (E)(5)(iv), regarding collaboration between States, is not included in this final notice.
In criterion (A)(2)(ii) (proposed (E)(3)(i) and (E)(3)(ii)), States demonstrate that they have a plan to use the support from a broad group of stakeholders to better implement their reform plans. Criterion (A)(2)(ii)(a) concerns enlisting the support of teachers and principals as key stakeholders. Criterion (A)(2)(ii)(b) asks States to describe the strength of statements and actions of support from other critical stakeholders, and examples of these are listed. Proposed criterion (E)(3)(iii), regarding the support of grant-making foundations and other funding sources, is not included in this final notice.
Criterion (A)(3) addresses the extent to which the State has demonstrated significant progress in raising achievement and closing gaps. Criterion (A)(3)(i) (proposed criteria (E)(1)(i) and (E)(1)(ii)) provides for the evaluation of States based on whether they have made progress in each of the four education reform areas over the past several years and used ARRA and other Federal and State funding to pursue such reforms.
Criterion (A)(3)(ii) (proposed criterion (E)(1)(iv)) addresses States' track records of increasing student achievement, decreasing achievement gaps, and increasing graduation rates. When evaluating these student academic outcomes, reviewers will examine student assessment results in reading/language arts and mathematics, both on the NAEP and on the assessments required under the ESEA; progress will be considered for each subgroup as well as for the “all students” group.
In response to comments indicating that some States would have difficulty meeting a June 2010 deadline for adopting a new set of common, kindergarten-to-grade-12 (K-12) standards, this notice extends the deadline for adopting standards as far as possible, while still allowing the Department to comply with the statutory requirement to obligate all Race to the Top funds by September 30, 2010. As set forth in criterion (B)(1)(ii), the new deadline for adopting a set of common K-12 standards is August 2, 2010. States that cannot adopt a common set of K-12 standards by this date will be evaluated based on the extent to which they demonstrate commitment and progress toward adoption of such standards by a later date in 2010 (
For criteria (B)(1) and (B)(2) (proposed criteria (A)(1) and (A)(2), respectively), regarding the development and adoption of common, high-quality standards and assessments, the term “significant number of States” has been further explained in the scoring rubric that will be used by reviewers to judge the Race to the Top applications (
Further, for criterion (B)(2), concerning the development and implementation of common, high-quality assessments, States will be asked to present, as evidence, copies of their Memoranda of Agreement showing that the State is part of a consortium that intends to develop high-quality assessments aligned with the consortium's common set of standards. This is similar to the evidence required for criterion (B)(1) concerning the development and adoption of common standards.
Finally, this notice clarifies the language in criterion (B)(3) (proposed criterion (A)(3)) regarding the transition to enhanced standards and high-quality assessments; the criterion now lists a number of activities in which States or LEAs might engage as they work to translate the standards and assessments into classroom practice.
The data systems selection criteria in the Race to the Top competition involve two types of data systems—statewide longitudinal data systems and instructional improvement systems. While numerous comments addressed the Department's emphasis on statewide longitudinal data systems in the NPP, the Department intends to give equal priority in this program to using instructional data as a critical tool for teachers, principals, and administrators to identify student needs, fill curriculum gaps, and target professional development. The final selection criteria, therefore, place significant emphasis on using data to inform professional development and fostering a culture of continuous improvement in schools and LEAs.
More specifically, the final notice contains new language in criterion (C)(3)(i) (proposed (B)(3)(i)) that clarifies that this criterion concerns local instructional improvement systems, not statewide longitudinal data systems, and further clarifies the LEA's role in the acquisition, adoption, and use of local instructional improvement systems.
New criterion (C)(3)(ii) was added to encourage LEAs and States to provide effective professional development on using data from these systems to support continuous instructional improvement.
The teachers and leaders criteria are built on two core principles that remain consistent with the NPP—that teacher and principal quality matters, and that effective teachers and principals are those whose students grow academically. Thus, this notice continues to include criteria directed at improving teacher and principal effectiveness and at ensuring that highly effective teachers and principals are serving in the high-poverty, high-minority schools where their talents are needed the most. In addition, this notice continues to define effective teachers and principals as those whose students make significant academic growth. While the final notice reaffirms these core principles, it also includes a number of changes to the criteria and related definitions based on public input.
The Department received over 400 comments in this reform area, many of which provided helpful suggestions that informed our revisions. One commenter suggested that the greatest contribution that the Race to the Top program could make would be to encourage the development of outstanding models for teacher and principal evaluation systems, now widely described as flawed and superficial. Based on this and similar comments, the Department has revised criterion (D)(2), now titled Improving Teacher and Principal Effectiveness Based on Performance, to encourage the design of high-quality evaluation systems, and to promote their use for feedback, professional improvement, and decision-making.
The Department concurs with the many commenters who cautioned that teacher and principal “effectiveness” should not be based solely on student test scores. In this notice, “effectiveness” is defined as based on input from multiple measures, provided that student growth is a significant factor. In addition, this notice re-emphasizes that it is student growth—not raw student achievement data or proficiency levels—that is the “significant factor” to be considered in evaluating effectiveness.
Finally, this notice expands and improves the four selection criteria that deal with teacher and principal professional development (criteria (B)(3), (C)(3)(ii), (D)(2)(iv)(a), and (D)(5)). It clarifies that professional collaboration and planning time, individualized professional development plans, training and support in the analysis and use of data, classroom observations with immediate feedback, and other activities are critical to supporting the development of teachers and principals.
Specifically, criterion (D)(1) (proposed (C)(1)), concerning high-quality pathways for aspiring teachers and leaders, has been expanded. It now includes a new criterion (D)(1)(iii), under which States will be evaluated based on the extent to which they have in place a process for monitoring, evaluating, and identifying areas of teacher and principal shortage and for preparing teachers and principals to fill these areas of shortage.
Criterion (D)(2) (proposed (C)(2)) has been revised to focus on the design and use of rigorous, transparent, and fair evaluation systems that provide regular feedback on performance to teachers and principals. This criterion also has been changed to clarify that the LEAs, not the States, should implement the teacher and principal effectiveness reforms under this criterion, and that the role of the States is to support their participating LEAs in implementing these reforms.
Criterion (D)(2)(ii) (proposed (C)(2)(b)) now emphasizes that these evaluation systems should differentiate effectiveness using multiple rating categories, and should be designed and developed with teacher and principal involvement. Criterion (D)(2)(iii) (proposed criteria (C)(2)(c) and (C)(2)(d)(i)) encourages such evaluations to be conducted annually and to include timely and constructive feedback, while criterion (D)(2)(iv) (proposed criterion (C)(2)(d)) addresses uses of evaluations to inform decision-making.
Criteria (D)(2)(iv)(c) and (D)(2)(iv)(d) (proposed criterion (C)(2)(d)(iii)) separately address the use of these evaluation systems to inform decisions regarding whether to grant tenure and/or full certification to effective teachers and principals (in criterion (D)(2)(iv)(c)), and removing ineffective teachers and principals (in criterion (D)(2)(iv)(d)). In addition, the Department has clarified that these decisions should be made using rigorous standards and streamlined, transparent, and fair procedures.
Criterion (D)(3) (proposed (C)(3)) has been revised to clarify that the State's plan for the equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals should be informed by the State's prior actions and data, and should ensure that students in high-poverty as well as high-minority schools have equitable access to highly effective teachers and principals—and are not served by ineffective ones at higher rates than are other students. The performance measures for this criterion now include, for comparison purposes, data on the presence of highly effective and ineffective teachers and principals in low-poverty and low-minority schools.
Criterion (D)(4) concerns improving the effectiveness of teacher and principal preparation programs. Criterion (D)(4)(i) (proposed (C)(4)) was revised to specify that, when reporting the effectiveness of teacher and principal credentialing programs, States should report student growth as well as student achievement data; they should report the data for all in-State credentialing programs, regardless of the number of graduates; and they should publicly report data, not “findings.”
Criterion (D)(4)(ii) has been added to encourage States to expand those preparation and credentialing options and programs that are successful at producing effective teachers and principals (both as defined in this notice).
Criterion (D)(5) (proposed criterion (C)(5)) focuses on providing effective support to teachers and principals. Here, the Department has inserted a new paragraph, (D)(5)(i), to provide additional guidance on, and examples of, effective support. The Department has also removed the reference to using
The Department made three noteworthy changes to the selection criteria on turning around the persistently lowest-achieving schools. First, this notice removes the restriction, proposed in the NPP, that permitted the “transformation” model to be used solely as a last resort. Instead, we simply specify that an LEA with more than nine persistently lowest-achieving schools may not use the transformation model for more than 50 percent of its schools.
Second, the Department has fully aligned the school intervention requirements and definitions across Race to the Top, the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, and the forthcoming Title I School Improvement Grants final notice. The Department's intention, in so doing, is to make it easier for States to develop consistent and coherent plans across these three programs.
Third, the public comments suggested that there was confusion about the role of charter schools in the Department's reform agenda. Some commenters concluded that by placing the charter school criterion in the school turnaround section, the Department was advancing charter schools as the chief remedy for addressing the needs of the persistently lowest-achieving schools. While the Department believes that charter schools can be strong partners in school turnaround work, it does not believe that charter schools are the only or preferred solution to turning around struggling schools. In fact, it is the Department's belief that turning around the persistently lowest-achieving schools is a core competency that every district needs to develop, and that closing bad schools and opening good ones is the job of school district leaders. Notwithstanding research showing that charter schools on average perform similarly to traditional public schools, a growing body of evidence suggests that high-quality charter schools can be powerful forces for increasing student achievement, closing achievement gaps, and spurring educational innovation. As a consequence, the selection criterion pertaining to charter schools (criterion (F)(2), proposed (D)(2)) has been shifted from the Turning Around the Lowest-Achieving Schools section to the General section, where it more appropriately reflects charter schools' broader role as a tool for school innovation and reform.
Specifically, the following changes have been made to criterion (E)(2) (proposed criterion (D)(3)), regarding turning around the lowest-achieving schools. Criterion (E)(2)(i) (proposed (D)(3)(i)) has been changed to allow States, at their discretion, to use Race to the Top funds to turn around non-Title I eligible secondary schools that would be considered “persistently lowest-achieving schools” if they were eligible to receive Title I funds.
Criterion (E)(2)(ii) (proposed criterion (D)(3)(ii)) has been changed by removing the clause that restricted the use of the “transformation” model to situations where the other intervention models were not possible and by specifying that an LEA with more than nine persistently lowest-achieving schools may not use the transformation model for more than 50 percent of its schools. In addition, the four intervention models LEAs may use under this criterion are now described in detail in Appendix C, and these models have been made identical across the Race to the Top, State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, and Title I School Improvement Grants notices.
Finally, the evidence collected for criterion (E)(2) will include the State's historic performance on school turnaround efforts, as evidenced by the total number of persistently lowest-achieving schools that States or LEAs attempted to turn around in the last five years, the approach used, and the results and lessons learned to date.
The General section includes a number of other key reform conditions or plans.
First, criterion (F)(1) concerns education funding across the State. Criterion (F)(1)(i) (proposed (E)(2)) addresses the State's efforts to maintain education funding between FY 2008 and FY 2009. New criterion (F)(1)(ii) has been added to reward States whose policies lead to equitable funding between high-need LEAs and other LEAs, and within LEAs, between high-poverty schools and other schools.
As noted above, criterion (F)(2) regarding charter schools has been moved to the General section from the Turning Around the Lowest-Achieving Schools section, where it was proposed criterion (D)(2). In this notice, the Department maintains its focus on high-quality charter schools as important tools for school reform.
As was the case with the NPP, the final charter school criteria presented under (F)(2) encourage both unrestrictive charter school growth laws and strong charter school accountability. In support of charter school growth, the criteria also provide for the evaluation of States based on the extent to which they provide equitable funding for charter schools and offer them access to facilities. Criterion (F)(2)(ii) has also been revised to urge authorizers to encourage charter schools that serve student populations that are similar to local district student populations, especially relative to high-need students.
In their comments, a number of States argued that they had laws—other than charter school laws—that spurred school innovation. In response to these comments, the Department has added a new criterion, (F)(2)(v), that invites States to describe the extent to which they enable LEAs to operate innovative, autonomous public schools other than charter schools.
It is the Department's hope that the Race to the Top competition gives States ample opportunity to explain and implement proven and promising ideas for bolstering student learning and educational attainment, and to do this in ways that work best in their local contexts. To ensure that the application reflects a broad range of effective State and local solutions, criterion (F)(3) (proposed criterion (E)(1)(iii)) asks States to describe laws, regulations, or policies (other than those asked about in other selection criteria) that have created conditions in the State that are conducive to education reform and improved student outcomes.
Many commenters offered suggestions about the proposed priorities, in particular the invitational and competitive preference priorities. A number of commenters urged the Department to increase the importance of each invitational priority by making it a competitive or absolute priority, while others wanted to add new priorities. Because of the Department's desire to give States latitude and flexibility in developing focused plans to best meet their students' needs, we are not changing any of the priorities from invitational to competitive or absolute. We did, however, add a new invitational priority and make some changes to the proposed priorities.
Regarding the proposed absolute priority, which stated that States' applications must comprehensively and coherently address all of the four education reform areas specified in the ARRA, the Department has added the requirement that States must comprehensively and coherently address the new State Success Factors criteria as well.
The final notice adds a new invitational priority 3, Innovations for Improving Early Learning Outcomes, expressing the Secretary's interest in applications that will improve early learning outcomes for high-need students who are young children.
In invitational priority 4 (proposed priority 3), Expansion and Adaptation of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, programs such as at-risk and dropout prevention programs, school climate and culture programs, and early learning programs have been added to the list of programs that a State may choose to integrate with its statewide longitudinal data system.
In invitational priority 5 (proposed priority 4), P-20 Coordination, Vertical and Horizontal Alignment, horizontal coordination of services was added as a critical component for supporting high-need students.
In invitational priority 6 (proposed priority 5), School-level Conditions for Reform, Innovation, and Learning, new paragraph (vi) adds school climate and culture, and new paragraph (vii) adds family and community engagement to the list of school conditions conducive to reform and innovation.
The first eligibility requirement, requirement (a), has been changed to provide that a State must have both phases of its State Fiscal Stabilization Fund application approved by the Department prior to being awarded a Race to the Top grant. In the NPP, we proposed that a State would have to receive approval of its Stabilization Fund applications prior to December 31, 2009 (for Race to the Top Phase 1 applicants) or prior to submitting a Race to the Top application (for Race to the Top Phase 2 applicants).
The second eligibility requirement, requirement (b), was revised to clarify that the State must not have any legal, statutory, or regulatory barriers at the State level to linking data on student achievement (as defined in this notice) or student growth (as defined in this notice) to teachers and principals for the purpose of teacher and principal evaluation.
In addition, several changes were made to the application requirements. The Department removed two proposed application requirements, application requirements (c) and (d), which would have required States to provide information about making education funding a priority and about stakeholder support. Note that the final notice retains the selection criteria that request this same information.
Application requirement (c)(2) provides additional clarity about how to calculate the relative shares of the Race to the Top grant that participating LEAs will be eligible to receive.
The Department has added a new application requirement, requirement (g), to clarify specific issues related to the term “subgroup,” to NAEP, and to the assessments required under the ESEA. In addition to requiring States to include, at a minimum, the listed student subgroups when reporting past outcomes and setting future targets, this application requirement includes statutory references. This addition eliminates the need for statutory references that define subgroups elsewhere in the notice, and they therefore have been removed.
The program requirements have also changed. First, the Department has indicated its final approach to evaluation. The Institute of Education Sciences will conduct a series of national evaluations of Race to the Top State grantees as part of its evaluation of programs funded under the ARRA. States that are awarded Race to the Top grants will be required to participate in these evaluations and are welcome, but not required, to conduct their own independent, statewide evaluations as well.
Finally, the program requirements have clarified that funds awarded under this competition may not be used to pay for costs related to statewide summative assessments.
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In the following section, the Department has summarized and provided its responses to the comments received.
There is a similar re-designation of the priorities. Specifically, we added a new invitational priority on innovations for improving early learning outcomes and designated it as priority 3. Subsequent priorities were re-numbered, and thus, proposed priorities 3, 4, and 5 are now priorities 4, 5, and 6, respectively. As with the selection criteria, generally, we will refer only to the final designation for these priorities and will use headers, as appropriate, to remind the reader of the changes. Thus, for example, we will refer to the priority