Press Release

OAKLAND, CA (July 27, 2010) – Today, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the finalists for Round Two of the Race to the Top Competition.  The Education Trust—West is pleased that California has been selected as one of 19 finalists.  The nod from the U.S. Department of Education means California still has a shot at a portion of $4.35 billion in federal education stimulus dollars.

The Race to the Top Competition has been a driving force for education reform in California.  After a disappointing finish in the first round, our second round application used a collaborative approach, leveraging the best thinking from a group of reform-minded California school districts.

“The state’s most recent application is a substantial improvement over the first-round effort and represents a watershed moment for education reform in our state,” stated Arun Ramanathan, executive director of The Education Trust—West, a leading policy, research and advocacy organization that works to close the gaps in opportunity and achievement for students of color and students in poverty.  “California has some of the widest achievement gaps in the nation for African-American and Latino students and students in poverty. The promise of this application is the potential it has to spur the strategies necessary to close these gaps,” said Ramanathan.

Specifically, the proposed reforms include a stronger focus on teacher and principal evaluations using multiple measures such as student performance data to identify effective teachers and principals.  It also builds on and refines California’s standards and assessment systems, in order to support student achievement and turnaround failing schools which disproportionately serve high concentrations of students of color and students in poverty.  Lastly, it enhances local data systems and provides training toward “real time” data-based classroom instructional improvement and decision-making.

“Driven by local school district superintendents, our Round Two application is a ‘bottom-up’ education reform plan that builds on district-level work already yielding positive outcomes for California’s students, with the hope of leveraging this success to usher in other reforms statewide,” maintained Ramanathan.

State education leaders will likely head to Washington in coming weeks to personally pitch California’s reform plan to U.S. Department of Education officials.