Race to the Top (RTTT) FAQ
What is Race to the Top?
Race to the Top (RTTT) is a $4.35 billion dollar education reform program enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus package. The U.S. Department of Education will award RTTT grants to states through a competitive application process. RTTT awards will be made in two rounds, with the first set of awards in April 2010 and the second set of awards in September 2010. A limited number of states are expected to receive awards. All interested states must submit their applications for the first round by January 19, 2010. If a state does not apply, it will not receive any RTTT funding. Colorado intends to apply for the first round of RTTT funds and many regard the state as a strong candidate. The decision to apply for RTTT funding may affect the bargained contracts of local associations.
What reform areas are required to be addressed in RTTT applications?
State grants are expected to advance reforms around four specific areas:
Does a local education agency (LEA)/school district or local union association have to participate in the state’s RTTT plan?
No. An LEA/school district or local association may choose not to participate in the state’s reform plan. However in order for Colorado to secure the most points for its application, the state needs to demonstrate local support from districts and stakeholders, including unions.
Do local union associations have “signoff” authority over local education agency (LEA)/school district participation in RTTT?
Not really. Local union presidents are one of three individuals (along with local superintendents and school board presidents) whose signatures may be included in the “MOU” that a school district must submit in order to be considered a “participating LEA.” While the LEA may agree to participate without including the local union signature, the absence of the local union signature must be noted on the application and will garner less points for the state.
Does CEA have “signoff” authority on the state’s application?
No. Only four government officials have this authority (the governor, CDE commissioner, president of state board of education and the attorney general). Colorado’s Race to the Top application must include signatures from these four officials to be eligible for an award.
Are all school districts eligible to participate in the state’s RTTT plan?
Not necessarily. What we know right now is that the state is in the process of developing eligibility criteria which school districts must meet in order to be a “participating district” in the state’s proposed reform plan.
How many points are awarded for local education agency/local union association participation in the state’s RTTT plan?
The total number and percentage of LEAs (as well as the demographics of the LEA) that “participate” in the state’s plan will be evaluated and scored. Local participation is worth 45 points on a total 500 point scale, or equivalent to 10 percent of all possible points. Local union association sign-off is necessary in order for the state to maximize this point allowance.
What does it mean for a local education agency/school district to “participate” in the state’s plan?
An LEA may decide to participate in certain parts of the state’s reform agenda. However, the extent to which LEAs participate significantly or totally in the state’s plan will be evaluated in the application. LEAs may instead choose only to be “involved” (i.e., not “participate” by signing an MOU but agree at a later time to comply with some or all statewide reform efforts). “Involved” LEAs would not receive their share of the RTTT money as a “participating LEA” would, but they may receive some money to implement the reform efforts they become associated with.
If my district chooses not to become a “participating LEA” in the state’s plan, does that mean no RTTT money will come to my district?
No, not necessarily. Even if your school district declines to participate in RTTT, schools in your district could still be subject to the state’s reform plan if it is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. For example, under RTTT the bottom 5% of schools must be identified by the Colorado Department of Education and reconfigured under one of four “turnaround” strategies. If your district has any of the identified schools then RTTT money will be coming into your district.
How many schools/districts will be impacted in Colorado by this federal requirement involving the identification of the bottom 5% of performing schools?
Right now, we know that in Colorado a total of 13 schools in 8 school districts have been identified as requiring turnaround strategies for 2010. Those districts are: Center, Pueblo 60, Mesa 51, Denver, Westminster, Adams 14, Sheridan and St. Vrain. Based on the total number of schools in Colorado, we expect this list to eventually grow to as many as 90 schools throughout the state.
If Colorado receives an award, how much will it be?
Under the final federal guidance from the U.S. Department of Education for RTTT issued on November 18th, Colorado was designated as a “category 4” state based on the size of its K-12 student population. The suggested budget range for category 4 states is $60-$175 million, however this amount is non-binding. A state may seek a higher amount above this range. Colorado plans on submitting a bid with a total budget of approximately $300 million.
How will the money be distributed?
If Colorado were to win, half of the award would pay for state level reforms and the other half would be distributed to “participating LEAs” on a per student basis under the standard Title 1 formula.
Will signing an MOU supersede existing contracts or agreements?
It may. While no language in the model MOU distributed by the U.S. DOE explicitly overrides existing contracts or agreements, the question of whether the version of the MOU distributed by the state would, in fact, supersede an existing contract or agreement must be decided on a case-by-case basis at the local level. Some NEA state affiliates are advising their locals not to sign MOU agreements without first bargaining or coming to an agreement on RTTT implementation issues in advance. What is clear is that the MOU may be altered to protect affiliates’ or members’ interests at either the local level or the state level.
Does bargaining have to be completed before an MOU is signed and the state’s application is submitted?
No. The scope of work to which a “participating” school district and local union association are agreeing is only preliminary. The final partnership agreement does not need to be completed until 90 days after the funds are actually awarded to Colorado.
Can LEAs/school districts sign on after the state has submitted its application or been awarded a grant?
Yes. According to the federal guidance, LEAs may sign on at any point up to 90 days after the state has been awarded a RTTT grant. It is in the state’s interest, however, to get as many LEAs/school districts as possible to sign on in advance in order to gain points in its application. The fitness of Colorado’s bid will be measured by the number of districts participating at the time it submits its bid to the U.S. Department of Education. However, despite this allowance from the U.S. Department of Education, Colorado has indicated that it will probably not accept “late entry” districts as part of its reform plan since that will impact the budget.
Will changes to Colorado’s statues be necessary to have a successful bid?
It depends upon who you ask. Peer reviewers will judge each state’s application on the strength of how it addresses each of the four reform criteria. This includes the strength of a state’s statutory or policy frameworks and its stated reform plans. In general, Colorado is considered well positioned on this front with efforts like our new standards revision, the growth model, CAP4K and the Educator ID system. Nonetheless, there are some legislators in the state legislature who are in the midst of working on “fast-track” legislation to try to make Colorado appear as attractive as possible for RTTT funding. But there is a chance these bills won’t be introduced until after the January 19th application deadline.
When is the state’s RTTT application due?
For Phase 1 applicants, the deadline is January 19th, 2010. All MOUs must be signed and delivered to the Lt. Governor’s office by January 15th, 2010. Phase 2 applications will be due sometime in the spring.
How will applications be reviewed?
A team of 88 peer reviewers will evaluate a state's application based on the designated criteria.
Do teacher evaluations now have to be based “50 percent or more” on student test scores only?
No. Teacher evaluations developed as part of RTTT must be based in “significant” part on student growth (not a single test score) data AND other measures of teacher effectiveness that are rigorous and comparable across classrooms or districts. This is commonly referred to as “multiple measures”. This does not mean 50 percent or more. It does mean that a teacher evaluation must be based on MORE than student assessment data alone. It also must be developed with teacher input.
How will RTTT impact reauthorization of ESEA?
Secretary Duncan has indicated his intentions to begin ESEA reauthorization in the U.S. Congress sometime in the spring. Many observers view RTTT to be the appetizer for the main course which will eventually replace NCLB. We have every reason to believe that the key elements of the winning state reform plans will become a significant part of the next version of ESEA.
Where can I get more information about Colorado’s RTTT grant?
All of Colorado’s Race-to-the-top materials and information can be found at: http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/OIT-2/OIT2/1240228834570