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California steps up competition for education grant

POSTED November 27, 2009 11:39 p.m.
Education cuts are coming at state governments left and right leaving local school districts with little to nothing to teach the students of the future. No one has much money and the students of America are suffering.
“It’s time to stop just talking about education reform and start actually doing it,” said President Barack Obama on Nov. 4 in Wisconsin. “It’s time to make education America’s national mission.”
On Nov. 12, the Obama Administration officially announced the final criteria for the Race to the Top grant applications open to every state in the nation.
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Obama created the Race to the Top program, which is a $4.35 billion fund making it the largest competitive education grant program in U.S. history.
“. . . Race to the Top will require states to take an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education in a U.S. Department of Education press release. “We will award grants to the states that have led the way in reform and will show the way for the rest of the country to follow.”
Applications for the grant can be submitted for the first phase on Jan. 19 and the second phase on Aug. 2. Awards will be announced for the first phase April 2010 and for the second phase in September 2010. Only states can apply for the grant.
Requirements when submitting the grant application have changed requiring the state to have both phases of its State Fiscal Stabilization Fund application approved by the Department of Education prior to being awarded the Race to the Top grant. Also the state must not have any legal, statutory, or regulatory barriers at the state level to linking data on student achievement or student growth to teachers and principals for the purpose of teacher and principal evaluation.     
These changes are in respect of the four specific priorities for this grant, which are: adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and in the workplace and to compete in the global economy; building data systems that measure student growth and success and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction; recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and turning around our lowest-achieving schools, according to the Race to the Top application.
To become eligible for as much money as possible, California has passed some new legislation in hopes of leading the rest of the country in good education practices. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested this legislative bill package after Duncan called out the state of California.  
“Your state once had the best education system in the country. From cradle to career, you took care of your children,” Duncan said. “You made sure they were ready to enter your universities or be productive participants in the workforce. I ask you, is California going to lead the race to the top or are you going to lead the retreat?”
Schwarzenegger responded with his Senate Bill SBX5 1 containing reforms to ensure California is eligible to apply and be highly competitive for Race to the Top funding, according to an Office of the Governor press release.
“California and its education system have felt the effects of the economic downturn and with every child in every classroom depending on us — I call on the legislature to ensure California leads the Race to the Top,” Schwarzenegger said.
Senate Bill SBX5 1 requires the linking of student achievement and teacher performance data, measures to turn-around struggling schools, measures to help California recruit and retain high-quality teachers and principals, and improving accountability for schools.
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail mmartens@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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