March 5, 2014: A new, $300 million Race to the Top competition was included in President Obama's 2015 $3.9 trillion budget announced yesterday before a group of preschoolers at Powell Elementary School in Washington, D.C. (at left). (The preschool pitch was $500 million in preschool development grants, another $300 million or so to boost Head Start to $8.86 billion, and a renewed request for $75 billion during the next 10 years to implement universal preschool programs for all 4-year-olds.)
This year's RTTT is aimed at helping school districts close the achievement gap between socioeconomic groups of students. As Alyson Klein writets on her EdWeek blog, Politics K-12:
The new ... contest would offer grants to help states and districts create data systems that track characteristics such as teacher and principal experience and effectiveness, academic achievement, and student coursework. It would also give schools resources to attract and retain effective teachers, extend learning time, bolster school culture, and help students with non-cognitive skills. Although teacher equity would be a component of the fund, the proposal is separate from the administration's "50-state strategy" to ensure that states give students in poverty access to as many highly effective teachers as their more advantaged peers.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan noted on a call with reporters that there isn't a single school district that is "systemically identifying" its "hardest-working" teachers and "moving that talent to underserved communities."
"I want people to have not just the right rhetoric," he said. "I want to make sure people are walking the walk."
But Noelle Ellerson, at left, the associate executive director for policy and advocacy at AASA, the American Association of School Administrators, wasn't so sure it made sense to create a competitive grant aimed at bolstering equity.
"We question the sincerity behind the call for equity when, by construction, the program creates a system of winners and losers," she said. ...