A second chance for NYS in Race to the Top

Thursday, July 29th, 2010 at 3:32 pm by

As we reported earlier, New York State was chosen as a finalist in the second-chance competition for a share of the federal government’s $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition.

I would have been stunned had New York not made it this far this time.

If there was a surprise in the selections, it is that the U.S. Education Department advanced more than half the states submitting applications to the finalist stage.  Eighteen states and the District of Columbia were chosen.

The federal Department picked all the states which made it to the finals last time but did not win funding (including New York) and five new states.

Since coming up short in phase 1, New York has acted to advance its standing in addressing several of the RTTT priorities:

  • The state has assembled about $40 million and taking other steps to improve student data systems — this was the single biggest weakness in it first round application;
  • It raised the cap on the number of charter schools authorized to operate in the state; and
  • It passed a law requiring the use of student performance data in teacher evaluation.

Here again is the chart I prepared comparing New York’s first round ratings with those of higher ranking states on each dimension of RTTT criteria.

Of course, other states have also acted to improve their chances.  That is one of the interesting ramifications of picking only two winners (Delaware and Tennessee) in phase one — it left a lot of money on the table ($3.4 billion) for states to compete for, while also impelling them to scratch for ways to improve upon the applications they submitted in phase 1.

The next step in the competition will come during the week of August 9, when teams from all the finalist states travel to Washington to meet with federal reviewers, presenting their proposals and responding to questions.

Yesterday, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch announced the team which will represent New York State that week:  herself, Commissioner David Steiner, Senior Deputy Commissioner John King, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, and New York City United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

The composition might get noticed for its heavy New York City representation.  (As I just did).  If it works, however, the whole state gains.

The state was second-guessed after phase 1 for emphasizing ground-level expertise over big names.  The phase 1 team included Steiner, King, SED Assistant Commissioners Ira Schwartz and Laura Smith, and New Visions for Public Schools President Robert Hughes.  In contrast, the teams from winning Delaware and Tennessee both included their governors.

Winning states are expected to be announced in late August or early September.  U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said he expects that 10 to 15 states will be chosen for funding.

Education Week noted, “…the number of winners—whether it’s closer to 10 or 15—will depend on which states win. After all, if New York, Florida, and California win and are awarded the maximum amount allowed by the Education Department’s rules, they’ll eat up $2.1 billion, or more than half of the remaining funds. Altogether, the states are asking for $6.2 billion, far more than the $3.4 billion that’s available.”

Information on New York’s application is available here.

Stay tuned…

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