CMS, NC apply for 'Race to the Top' Funds
President Obama and Education Secretary Duncan recently announced plans to continue the 'Race to the Top' ('RttT') challenge. The federal grant program plans to spend $1.35 billion on educational reform. $1.35 billion is arguably an impressive amount, but what does this mean for North Carolina? Furthermore, what does this program mean for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools?
The grant money will be divided among individual states, but only those that apply. North Carolina is one of those states; if selected, the state will get about $400 million over 4 years. 50% will go to districts (like CMS) and 50% will stay at the state level. North Carolina and its school districts will be asked to use the money to advance reforms around four specific areas:
1) Adopting curriculum standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college, and ultimately in the global economy;
2) Building data systems that measure student growth, and give teachers and principals the tools they need to improve instruction;
3) Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are most needed; and
4) Turning around the lowest-achieving schools. Some existing programs, such as Title I, address these low performing schhols.
The CMS Board of Education is unanimously supportive of applying for the 'RttT' funding, as is Superintendent Dr. Peter Gorman. The only concerns, thus far, are with the wording of the application because it does not include the word 'gap.' As At-Large board member Trent Merchant said at a recent board meeting, 'Words matter.' Merchant and other board members want to make sure the grant addresses the achievement gap, an issue that comes up frequently in CMS politics. The language used in the 'RttT' application comes from the grant writer and CMS has no control over the wording. However, CMS is moving forward. Superintendent Dr. Peter Gorman pointed out that if the Board became unhappy with the program, the district could opt out after being selected. At least 9 states have decided not to apply.
There are two phases to the application process and winners for phase 1 will be announced in April 2010. Those states that did not win will be provided feedback and will have a chance to apply again during phase 2 in June 2010. Phase 2 winners will be announced in September 2010. With concerns over the 2011-2012 budget being tighter than this year's, the 'Race to the Top' funds could give CMS a great opportunity to keep vital programs and services intact.
For more on Race to the Top go to http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html
For more on Title 1 go to http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/pg1.html