Race to the Top
Race to the Top, abbreviated R2T, RTTT or RTT, is a $4.35 billion United States Department of Education
United States Department of Education
The United States Department of Education, also referred to as ED or the ED for Education Department, is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government...

 competition designed to spur innovation and reforms in state and local district K-12 education. It is funded by the ED Recovery Act as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, abbreviated ARRA and commonly referred to as the Stimulus or The Recovery Act, is an economic stimulus package enacted by the 111th United States Congress in February 2009 and signed into law on February 17, 2009, by President Barack Obama.To...

 and was announced by President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
Arne Duncan
Arne Duncan is an American education administrator and currently United States Secretary of Education. Duncan previously served as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools.-Early years and personal:...

 on July 24, 2009. States were awarded points for satisfying certain educational policies, such as performance-based standards (often referred to as an Annual professional performance review
Annual professional performance review
The Annual Professional Performance Review Plan is the process by which New York state teachers and principals are evaluated on a yearly basis....

) for teachers and principals, complying with nationwide standards, promoting charter schools, and computerization. Critics say that high-stakes testing is unreliable, that charter schools weaken public education, or that the federal government should not influence local schools.

Criteria for Funding

State applications for funding were scored on selection criteria worth a total of 500 points. In order of weight, the criteria were:
  • Great Teachers and Leaders (138 total points)
    • Improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance (58 points)
    • Ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals (25 points)
    • Providing high-quality pathways for aspiring teachers and principals (21 points)
    • Providing effective support to teachers and principals (20 points)
    • Improving the effectiveness of teacher and principal preparation programs (14 points)
  • State Success Factors (125 total points)
    • Articulating State's education reform agenda and LEAs
      Local education agency
      Local Education Agency is a commonly used synonym for a school district, an entity which operates local public primary and secondary schools in the United States, or provides government services to schools within a local area in the United Kingdom....

      ' participation in it (65 points)
    • Building strong statewide capacity to implement, scale up, and sustain proposed plans (30 points)
    • Demonstrating significant progress in raising achievement and closing gaps (30 points)
  • Standards and Assessments (70 total points)
    • Developing and adopting common standards (from the Common Core State Standards Initiative
      Common core state standards initiative
      The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a U.S. education initiative that seeks to bring diverse state curricula into alignment with each other by following the principles of standards-based education reform. The initiative is sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council...

      ) (40 points)
    • Supporting the transition to enhanced standards and high-quality assessments (20 points)
    • Developing and implementing common, high-quality assessments (10 points)
  • General Selection Criteria (55 total points)
    • Ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charters and other innovative schools (40 points)
    • Making education funding a priority (10 points)
    • Demonstrating other significant reform conditions (5 points)
  • Turning Around the Lowest-Achieving Schools (50 total points)
    • Turning around the lowest-achieving schools (40 points)
    • Intervening in the lowest-achieving schools and LEAs (10 points)
  • Data Systems to Support Instruction (47 total points)
    • Fully implementing a statewide longitudinal data system (24 points)
    • Using data to improve instruction (18 points)
    • Accessing and using State data (5 points)

In addition to the 485 possible points from the criteria above, the prioritization of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education is worth another fifteen points for a possible total of 500.


Many states changed their policies to make their applications more competitive. For instance, Illinois lifted a cap on the number of charter schools it allows; Massachusetts made it easier for students in low-performing schools to switch to charters, and West Virginia proposed a merit pay system that includes student achievement in its compensation calculations. In order to be eligible, states had to use value-added modeling
Value-added modeling
Value-added modeling is a method of teacher evaluation that measures the teacher's contribution in a given year by comparing current school year test scores of their students to the scores of those same students in the previous school year, as well as to the scores of other students in the same...

 in teacher evaluations. Some states had banned value-added modeling, but changed their laws to be eligible.

Race to the Top prompted 48 states to adopt common standards for K-12. Adoption was accelerated by the August 1, 2010 deadline for adopting common standards, after which states would not receive points toward round 2 applications. In addition, the White House announced a $350 million federal grant funding the development of assessments aligned to the common standards. The common standards were developed by the National Governors Association
National Governors Association
The National Governors Association , founded in 1908 as the National Governors' Conference, is funded primarily by state dues, federal grants and contracts and private contributions. NGA represents the governors of the fifty U.S. states and five U.S. territories The National Governors Association...

 and the Council of Chief State School Officers with funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is a charitable foundation founded in 1926 by Charles Stewart Mott of Flint, Michigan. Mott was the leading industrialist in Flint through his association with General Motors....

 and others.


Phase 1 applications for funding were due on January 19, 2010. 40 states applied for funding, as did the District of Columbia. Phase 1 finalists were announced on March 4, 2010, and phase 1 winners were announced on March 29, 2010. The deadline for submitting Phase 2 applications was June 1; Phase 2 decisions were announced on August 24, 2010. Phase 3 applications were spilt up into two parts. Part I was due November 22, 2011 and Part II will be due December 16. Awards will be announced after December 20. Only Phase 2 finalists who did not earn money were eligible. Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge, jointly conducted by the Department of Education and the United States Department of Health and Human Services
United States Department of Health and Human Services
The United States Department of Health and Human Services is a Cabinet department of the United States government with the goal of protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services. Its motto is "Improving the health, safety, and well-being of America"...

, applications were due October 20. Awards will be announced in mid-December.


States were eligible for different funding award buckets depending on their share of the federal population of children between the ages of 5-17. Phase 1 award bands ranged from $20–75 million up to the highest phase 1 award range of $350–$700 million. Only the four largest states (California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

, Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

, and New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

) were eligible for this highest bucket.
Race to the Top Results
State Round 1 Score (Place) Round 1 Result Round 2 Score (Place) Round 2 Result
Alabama 291.2 (37th) - 212.0 (36th) -
Arizona 240.2 (40th) - 435.4 (12th) Finalist
Arkansas 394.4 (17th) - 389.2 (21st) -
California 336.8 (27th) - 423.6 (16th) Finalist
Colorado 409.6 (14th) Finalist 420.2 (17th) Finalist
Connecticut 344.6 (25th) - 379.0 (25th) -
Delaware 454.6 (1st) Awarded $100 million - -
District of Columbia 402.4 (16th) Finalist 450.0 (6th) Awarded $75 million
Florida 431.4 (4th) Finalist 452.4 (4th) Awarded $700 million
Georgia 433.6 (3rd) Finalist 446.4 (8th) Awarded $400 million
Hawaii 364.6 (22nd) - 462.4 (3rd) Awarded $75 million
Idaho 331.0 (28th) - Did Not Submit -
Illinois 423.8 (5th) Finalist 426.6 (15th) Finalist
Indiana 355.6 (23rd) - Did Not Submit -
Iowa 346.0 (24th) - 382.8 (22nd) -
Kansas 329.6 (29th) - Did Not Submit -
Kentucky 418.8 (9th) Finalist 412.4 (19th) Finalist
Louisiana 418.2 (11th) Finalist 434.0 (13th) Finalist
Maine Did Not Submit - 283.4 (33rd) -
Maryland Did Not Submit - 450.0 (6th) Awarded $250 million
Massachusetts 411.4 (13th) Finalist 471.0 (1st) Awarded $250 million
Michigan 366.2 (21st) - 381.6 (23rd) -
Minnesota 375.0 (20th) - Did Not Submit -
Mississippi Did Not Submit - 263.4 (34th) -
Missouri 301.4 (33rd) - 316.4 (30th) -
Montana Did Not Submit - 238.4 (35th) -
Nebraska 247.4 (39th) - 295.8 (31st) -
Nevada Did Not Submit - 381.2 (24th) -
New Hampshire 271.2 (38th) - 335.2 (29th) -
New Jersey 387.0 (18th) - 437.8 (11th) Finalist
New Mexico 325.2 (30th) - 366.2 (28th) -
New York 408.6 (15th) Finalist 464.8 (2nd) Awarded $700 million
North Carolina 414.0 (12th) Finalist 441.6 (9th) Awarded $400 million
Ohio 418.6 (10th) Finalist 440.8 (10th) Awarded $400 million
Oklahoma 294.6 (34th) - 391.8 (20th) -
Oregon 292.6 (35th) - Did Not Submit -
Pennsylvania 420.0 (7th) Finalist 417.6 (18th) Finalist
Rhode Island 419.0 (8th) Finalist 451.2 (5th) Awarded $75 million
South Carolina 423.2 (6th) Finalist 431.0 (14th) Finalist
South Dakota 135.8 (41st) - Did Not Submit -
Tennessee 444.2 (2nd) Awarded $500 million - -
Utah 379.4 (19th) - 379.0 (25th) -
Virginia 324.8 (31st) - Did Not Submit -
Washington Did Not Submit - 290.6 (32nd) -
West Virginia 292.4 (36th) - Did Not Submit -
Wisconsin 341.2 (26th) - 368.4 (27th) -
Wyoming 318.6 (32nd) - Did Not Submit -

Alaska, North Dakota, Texas, and Vermont did not submit Race to the Top applications for either round.

After both rounds, the Department of Education released the complete scoring of each application, with the intention of making the scoring process more transparent and helping states revise their applications to be more competitive for the second round of competition.


Although many states have competed to win the grants, Race to the Top has also been criticized by politicians, policy analysts, thought leaders and educators. Teachers' unions and educators have complained that the tests are an inaccurate way to measure teachers, and haven't worked in the past. Conservatives have complained that it imposes federal control on state schools.

In explaining why Texas would not be applying for Race to the Top funding, Governor Rick Perry
Rick Perry
James Richard "Rick" Perry is the 47th and current Governor of Texas. A Republican, Perry was elected Lieutenant Governor of Texas in 1998 and assumed the governorship in December 2000 when then-governor George W. Bush resigned to become President of the United States. Perry was elected to full...

 stated, "we would be foolish and irresponsible to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington."

Critics further contend that the reforms being promoted are unproven or have been unsuccessful in the past. Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch
Diane Silvers Ravitch is an historian of education, an educational policy analyst, and a research professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Previously, she was a U.S...

, for example, commented that empirical evidence "shows clearly that choice, competition and accountability as education reform levers are not working."
A coalition of civil rights organizations, including the Urban League, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Rainbow Push Coalition
Rainbow/PUSH is a non-profit organization formed as a merger of two non-profit organizations — Operation PUSH and the National Rainbow Coalition — founded by Jesse Jackson. The organizations pursue social justice, civil rights and political activism.In December 1971, Jackson resigned from...

 released a statement that “Such an approach reinstates the antiquated and highly politicized frame for distributing federal support to states that civil rights organizations fought to remove in 1965.”
Finally, the Economic Policy Institute
Economic Policy Institute
The Economic Policy Institute is a 501 non-profit, liberal, nonpartisan think tank that seeks to broaden the public debate about strategies to achieve a prosperous and fair economy...

 released a report in April 2010 finding that "the selection of Delaware and Tennessee was subjective and arbitrary, more a matter of bias or chance than a result of these states’ superior compliance with reform policies."

On May 26, 2010, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell
Bob McDonnell
Robert Francis "Bob" McDonnell is an American politician who has been the 71st Governor of Virginia since January 2010. A former lieutenant colonel in the United States Army, McDonnell served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1993 to 2006 and served as Attorney General of Virginia from 2006...

withdrew the state from the second round of the competition. Virginia finished 31st out of 41 states in the first round, but McDonnell said that Virginia would not continue for the second round, believing the competition required the use of common education performance standards instead of Virginia's current standards. In fact, the use of common performance standards is not required. Although McDonnell supported the Race to the Top program during his campaign for governor, he claimed on his June 1 appearance on MSNBC that the Race to the Top rules precluded participating states from adopting more rigorous standards in addition to whatever multi-state standards they join. However, in some cases, "Race to the Top" regulations award the points even if states adopt standards more rigorous than the optional, common standards.

Further reading

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