Jan 24 -
Congressman Jared Polis today offered legislation authorizing the highly successful Race to the Top (RTT) competitive education reform grant initiative. RTT provides grants to states and school districts, including in Colorado, that demonstrate a strong commitment to bold educational reforms to close achievement gaps and improve academic outcomes for all students, such as increasing graduation rates and college access and success.
“Race to the Top has ignited effective education reforms across the country and my legislation will continue to help foster achievement and accountability in all of our schools,” said Polis. “Colorado is already seeing the benefit of this funding and I’m hopeful that grants will support additional reform efforts in the state. As we work to overhaul No Child Left Behind this year the Race to the Top Act should be a key component of the new elementary and secondary education law.”
Colorado has already received funding from RTT and Polis’ legislation increases the chance for the state’s school to win grants. Last month, the St. Vrain Valley School District was awarded a RTT grant to expand classes in the critical science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, better prepare students for college, improve teacher training, and establish effective partnerships with local businesses to offer students real life skills to help them get jobs.
“Winning the national district Race to the Top competition gives our students a powerful combination of advanced instruction with proven results,” said Superintendent Don Haddad of St Vrain Valley Schools. “This critical funding will provide amazing new opportunities in Science Technology Engineering and Math, as well as supporting a longer school year and more high-quality early learning opportunities for many students. I’m deeply grateful for the tremendous support of Congressman Jared Polis and the Obama Administration for their unwavering support of education.”
The Mapleton School District narrowly missed earning an RTT grant that would have expanded students’ learning. Falling short by just one point, Mapleton’s grant proposal was the highest ranked application in the nation to not win an award. By establishing Race to the Top in federal law, Polis’ bill would increase the chances of Mapleton and other deserving districts being able to be selected or reapply.
“We know exactly what we need to do next to advance achievement in Mapleton,” stated Superintendent Charlotte Ciancio of Mapleton School District. “We have the plan, the right staff, and the energy to deliver what our students need. Extending the school year for every student we serve will close the learning gaps compounded by poverty, mobility, and learning English as a second language. All we need are the resources to get the job done and Race to the Top could help provide those resources.”
Colorado earned a four-year RTT grant of $17.9 million in December 2011, which was just about five percent of what the state initially planned for two years earlier and about 10 percent of the amount awarded to states in the second round. The state also received a Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant last year of about $30 million to improve early learning quality by strengthening early childhood education guidelines, improving professional development and evaluation of early learning teachers, increase the state’s early childhood rating system and supporting a Kindergarten assessment of young children’s skills. By extending RTT authorization in federal law for five years, Polis’ bill would provide more states and districts with the opportunity to support student academic achievement for generations to come.
First funded in 2009, RTT is delivering real results for students and families. Since its inception:
- 37 states and D.C. have specifically committed to comprehensive statewide reform;
- 45 states and D.C. have adopted high college- and career-ready standards; and,
- 38 states and D.C. have committed to improving teacher quality, including alternative certification and stronger educator effectiveness and evaluation systems.
The Race to the Top Act of 2013 would extend the competition to school districts and authorize the grant initiative through 2018. The bill:
- Encourages and rewards the implementation of comprehensive reforms and innovative strategies that close achievement gaps and remove barriers to innovation through four-year competitive grants;
- Supports increased teacher and principal effectiveness and efforts to ensure that all students have equal opportunity to be taught by effective educators;
- Strengthens the use of high-quality data to improve instruction and student outcomes;
- Incentivizes the adoption of internationally benchmarked college- and career-ready standards that prepare students for success in a global economy;
- Opens the competition to school districts in addition to states;
- Promotes early learning programs to ensure that students are prepared to learn when they enter the public school system;
- Holds states and districts accountable by making funds conditional to progress toward performance goals, and requires annual reporting;
- Directs the Secretary of Education to ensure that the evaluation of applications is transparent, fair and objective; and,
- Ensures a priority for rural and high-poverty districts.
The legislation has been endorsed by the Center for American Progress, Third Way, and Democrats for Education Reform.
Polis, who has returned as a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, will introduce other education reform legislation in the coming weeks to complement this bill, including supporting expansion and replication of quality charter schools; turning around low-performing schools; holding all schools and districts accountable through individual student academic growth; comprehensively improving teacher professional development; protecting students from discrimination based on sexual orientation; re-engaging dropouts in school; supporting pregnant and parenting students; fully funding special education excess costs; promoting computer science education in public schools; improving early learning standards and teacher education; and, ensuring students understand the cost of college loans.