Early Ed Watch

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The Future of Race to the Top

Published:  December 21, 2011

This week's National Journal Education Experts blog asks about the future of the Department of Education's Race to the Top competition:

What is the future for Race to the Top? Could this be the end? With limited funding, what happens to the concept of competitive grants? Are competitions like Race to the Top an appropriate way to drive public policy? Does the Education Department's grant program work better when it has more money and is financing larger projects? Or is it a better use of funds and leverage when the grants are tailored to more specific goals?

In my response, I write that "High-profile competitions are the best way for the federal government to drive change in certain reform areas as long as research and evaluation are a component in guiding future funding." As for Race to the Top, though, the outlook may not be so good. Its budget continues to shrink: "In the fiscal year 2012 omnibus spending bill, Congress allocated $550 million for a new competition. That’s not a lot of money, especially when considering that the first and second round awarded $4 billion to states. It’s possible that the pot will be diluted even further if the Department decides to hold another Early Learning Challenge as a separate program."

I also share what I'd like the next Race to the Top round to be: "a pre-K-12 competition that encourages states to continue connecting the birth-to-five and K-12 systems, improve school readiness as well as the early grades of elementary school." Helping states to provide all children with the right start will lead to less intervention and remediation in later grades.

Read my full comments here.

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