COMET • Vol. 11, No. 04 – 04 March 2010


(1) Governor Schwarzenegger’s Statement Regarding California not being Selected as a Finalist in the First Phase of the Race to the Top Competition

Source: Office of the Governor, State of California – 4 March 2010

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued the following statement today after U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that California was not selected as a finalist for round one of the Race to the Top funding program:

“This decision by the Obama Administration demonstrates that we need to be more aggressive and bolder in reforming our education system. While the reforms we passed did move our state forward, they did not go far enough because other states were more competitive. I will continue to fight for additional education reforms to make California truly competitive for the billions of dollars our students desperately need–the people of California expect nothing less.”

Under the federal Race to the Top guidelines, states not funded under the first round of competition will have the opportunity to apply for funding under a second round, with state applications due on June 1, 2010.

Background: On July 24, 2009, President Obama and Secretary Duncan announced federal eligibility and competitiveness requirements for states to compete for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funding. Governor Schwarzenegger called a special session of the legislature and introducing a bi-partisan legislative package that would enable the state to meet eligibility requirements (  The governor signed SB 19, SB 680, and AB 1130 in October 2009 ( and then signed SBX5 1 and SBX5 4 in January 2010 ( prior to the submission of the state’s Race to the Top application.


(2) State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Comments on Selection of Race to the Top Finalists

Source:  California Department of Education – 4 March 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell commented today on the U.S. Department of Education announcement that California was not selected as a finalist in Phase 1 of the Race to the Top (RTTT) competition.

“I am disappointed that California was not selected as a finalist in Phase 1 of the Race to the Top competition,” O’Connell said. “We developed a very thoughtful application that outlines how we can make systemic changes to California’s public education system that will improve outcomes for all our children. Our application was supported by nearly half of the districts in our state, and it remains a good framework to guide our education reform efforts. We look forward to seeing the federal reviewers’ comments about our application to consider how we might improve our chances in Phase 2 of the competition. In the meantime, we will continue to work with the local educational agencies committed to improving student outcomes through our Race to the Top work.”

California was among 40 states and the District of Columbia that sought RTTT funding in Phase 1. States will have at least one more opportunity to apply for funding. Phase 2 applications are due June 1, 2010, and awards are expected by September 30, 2010. States that applied in Phase 1, but were not awarded grants may reapply for funding in Phase 2, together with those states that are applying for the first time in Phase 2. Successful Phase 1 applicants may not apply for additional funding in Phase 2. The U.S. Department of Education has not pre-determined the number of grants or the amount of funding that will be awarded in each phase. The amount of funding for Phase 2 has not been determined.

California’s application spelled out how the state and participating local educational agency partners will collaborate in unprecedented ways to make systemic changes to help accelerate growth in student achievement and improve public education in four key focus areas:

1. Refining California’s rigorous state standards by adopting internationally benchmarked common core standards and aligned assessments that better prepare students for success in college and the workplace;
2. Recruiting, developing, and retaining effective teachers and principals in all schools, with particular attention to those schools that need them the most;
3. Expanding our education data system to support instruction and better measure student success in college and the workforce; and
4. Dramatically improving the state’s persistently lowest-performing schools.

A total of 812 local educational agencies submitted a signed Memorandum of Understanding to partner with California in the RTTT competition. The local educational agencies included school districts or county offices of education, charter schools, and Regional Occupational Programs.

For more information on Race to the Top, please visit



(1) Sixteen Finalists Announced in Phase 1 of Race to the Top Competition

Source: U.S. Department of Education
URL (Duncan’s Statement):
URL (Video):
URL (Letter to Governors):

Today the Department of Education announced that 15 states and the District of Columbia will advance as finalists in Phase 1 of the Race to the Top competition. Race to the Top is the Department’s $4.35 billion effort to dramatically re-shape America’s educational system to better engage and prepare students for success in a competitive 21st century economy and workplace.

States competing for Race to the Top funds were asked to document past education reform successes, as well as outline plans to (a) extend reforms using college and career-ready standards and assessments, (b) build a workforce of highly effective educators, (c) create educational data systems to support student achievement, and (d) turn around their lowest-performing schools.

Following are the Phase 1 finalists: Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

“These states are an example for the country of what is possible when adults come together to do the right thing for children,” Secretary Arne Duncan said.

“Everyone that applied for Race to the Top is charting a path for education reform in America” Duncan continued. “I salute all of the applicants for their hard work. And I encourage non-finalists to reapply for Phase 2.”

The 16 finalists were chosen from among the 40 states and the District of Columbia that submitted applications for Phase 1. Winners for Phase 1 will be chosen from among the 16 finalists and announced in April. Applications for Phase 2 will be due on June 1 of this year, with finalists announced in August and winners in September. The only states prohibited from applying in Phase 2 are those that receive awards in Phase 1.

How Finalists Were Chosen

Panels of 5 peer reviewers independently read and scored each state’s application. The panels then met in February to finalize their comments and submit scores. Each state’s score is the average of the five independent reviewers’ scores.

The Department arranged the applications in order from high to low scores and determined which applicants were the strongest competitors to invite back based on “natural breaks”–i.e. scoring gaps in the line-up. Each of the 16 finalists scored over 400 points in a 500 point competition–and there was a natural break from the other 25 applicants. All 41 applicants from Phase 1 will receive their peer reviewers’ comments and scores after the winners are announced in April. The Department will post the scores and applications on its Web site.

Choosing Winners from Among the Finalists

The finalists will be invited to Washington, D.C. in mid-March to present their proposals to the panel that reviewed their applications in depth during the initial stage, and to engage in Q&A discussions with the reviewers.

The purpose of the finalist stage is to allow reviewers to ensure that the state has the understanding, knowledge, capacity, and the will to truly deliver on what is proposed. The presentations will be videotaped and posted for viewing on the Department’s website at the end of Phase 1.

At the conclusion of the presentations, the reviewers will meet again to discuss each application, finalize scores and comments, and submit them to the Department. Again, the final score for each application will be an average of the five peer reviewers’ scores. The scores will be arranged in order from high to low and presented to Secretary Duncan for final selection.

Number of Winners and Award Sizes

The number of Phase 1 winners will be determined by the strength of the applications. While the department does not have a predetermined amount of money to award in each phase of the competition, it is expected that no more than half of the money will be awarded in Phase 1 to ensure a robust competition in Phase 2.

“We are setting a high bar and we anticipate very few winners in Phase 1. But this isn’t just about the money. It’s about collaboration among all stakeholders, building a shared agenda, and challenging ourselves to improve the way our students learn. I feel that every state that has applied is a winner–and the biggest winners of all are the students,” Duncan said.

Of the $4.35 billion in Race to the Top funds provided under the Recovery Act, the Department will distribute approximately $4 billion directly to states to drive education reform and $350 million to consortia of states that compete in a separate competition to create new college and career-ready assessments. The assessment competition is still in the design phase.

President Obama proposed to continue the Race to the Top program next year by requesting $1.35 billion in the Administration’s FY 2011 budget. Thus, a third round of applications is anticipated.

[Note: A detailed summary of the peer review process is available in the Education Week article, “Peer Reviewers Winnow Race to Top Hopefuls”: ]


A short video announcement by Arne Duncan is available at


Related Articles:

(a) “California Misses out on Federal Education Funds” by Jason Song and Howard Blume
SourceLos Angeles Times – 4 March 2010


(b) “D.C. and 15 States Make First Cut in Race to the Top School Reform Contest” by Nick Anderson
SourceThe Washington Post – March 4, 2010


(2) Secretary Duncan Testifies Before House Committee on Reauthorization of ESEA (NCLB); STEM Included in Proposed Budget

Source: U.S. Department of Education and House Education and Labor Committee
URL (Statement):
URL (Proposed Budget):
URL (Audio):
URL (HELC): and

Yesterday morning (3.3.2010), U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appeared before the House Education and Labor Committee to discuss ways in which strong and innovative education reforms can help rebuild the U.S. economy and restore the country’s competitiveness.

Secretary Duncan discussed President Obama’s education agenda, including his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2011 (see for details), which calls for Congress to (a) reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)­­–currently known as No Child Left Behind (see–and (b) pass the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. The latter Act originated in the Education and Labor Committee and was approved by the House in September (see (

At yesterday’s hearing, Secretary Duncan talked about the importance of college and career-ready standards, supporting and rewarding excellence, focusing on growth and gains in student learning, and a “smarter, more targeted federal role to give states and districts as much flexibility as possible, while ensuring as much accountability as possible.” COMET readers are urged to listen to the audio recording of Secretary Duncan’s presentation, as well as well to the extensive and wide-ranging question-and-answer session:

Today’s issue of The New York Times includes an article on the hearing, focused on the reauthorization of the ESEA:  An article in Education Week also provides  coverage of the hearing:

The following is an excerpt from the Secretary’s written testimony (available in its entirety at

Improving STEM Outcomes

One area that receives special attention in both our 2011 budget request and our reauthorization plan is improving instruction and student outcomes in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The world our youth will inherit increasingly will be influenced by science and technology, and it is our obligation to prepare them for that world.

The 2011 request includes several activities that support this agenda and connect with President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign, which is aimed at fostering public-private partnerships in support of STEM. Our goal is to move American students from the middle of the pack to the top of the world in STEM achievement over the next decade, by focusing on (1) enhancing the ability of teachers to deliver rigorous STEM content, and providing the supports they need to deliver that instruction; (2) increasing STEM literacy so that all students can master challenging content and think critically in STEM fields, and participate fully as citizens in an America changed by technology in ways we cannot envision; and (3) expanding STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and girls and individuals with disabilities.

Specifically, we are asking for $300 million to improve the teaching and learning of STEM subjects through the “Effective Teaching and Learning: STEM” program; $150 million for STEM projects under the $500 million request for the i3 program; and $25 million for a STEM initiative in the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education to identify and validate more effective approaches for attracting and retaining, engaging and effectively teaching undergraduates in STEM fields. And I have directed the Department to work closely with other federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Institutes of Health to align our efforts toward our common goal of supporting students.


Note from the House Education and Labor Committee: Groups and stakeholders who share the Committee’s serious interest in building a world-class education system are invited to email their input and suggestions at The deadline for comments is March 26, 2010.


(3) Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge

Source: U.S. Department of Education
URL (MP3 video):

The White House and the Department of Education have announced a new Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge and are inviting public schools across the country to compete to have President Obama speak at their graduation.  At the beginning of the school year, the President encouraged students across the country to take responsibility for their education, study hard and graduate from high school.  The Race to the Top High School Commencement challenge encourages schools to show how they are making great strides on personal responsibility, academic excellence, and college readiness.

Applications must be completed by students and submitted by a high school’s Principal using the Commencement Challenge Application Form ( no later than Monday, March 15, at 8:59 p.m. PST.  Each school may submit only one application and high schools must be public to apply. Following the application deadline, six finalists will be selected by the White House and Department of Education.  These schools will then be featured on the White House website, and the public will have an opportunity to vote for the three schools they think best meet the President’s goal.  The President will select a national winner from these three finalists and visit the winning high school to deliver the commencement address to the class of 2010.

The application’s four essay questions focus on demonstrating how the school is helping prepare students to meet the President’s 2020 goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.  Applications will be judged based on the school’s performance and dedication to providing students an excellent education that will prepare them to graduate ready for college and career choices. Each question must be answered in full to qualify and data that substantiates each answer is strongly encouraged.

In addition to the required essay responses, applicants are invited to submit the following optional supplemental materials:

= A video — no more than 2 minutes in length — showing the school’s culture and character and highlighting how it is a model of educational success for other high schools around the country.

= Supplemental data on key indicators such as attendance, student achievement, graduation rates, and, where available, college enrollment rates.  This data may be presented in the form of tables, graphs or spreadsheets and should be used to help the school make the most compelling arguments possible.