North Carolina Continues the Race to the Top

April 5, 2010 – In early March, North Carolina was honored to be one of sixteen finalists for the Race to the Top (RttT) competitive federal grants. The RttT program set aside $4.35 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for states to implement significant education reforms. Forty states and the District of Columbia submitted proposals. The fund focuses on four main reform areas: enhancing standards and assessments, improving the collection and use of data, increasing teacher effectiveness and achieving equity in teacher distribution, and turning around low-achieving schools. North Carolina’s proposal requested more than $400 million to support improving schools throughout the State over the next four years.

The U.S. Department of Education announced two winners in the first round of Race to the Top grants: Delaware and Tennessee. After a comprehensive review of comments, North Carolina intends to reapply for funds in the second phase, due June 1, 2010.

The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation (FI) played a lead role in preparing North Carolina’s proposal and worked closely with the NC RttT Steering Committee, which consisted of Bill Harrison, Chair of the State Board of Education, June Atkinson, State Superintendent of Schools, and Myra Best, Special Advisor for Education and Innovation to Governor Beverly Perdue. The Friday Institute coordinated the work of multiple teams to develop NC’s plans for each of the reform areas.

Each team included leaders from the NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) and representatives of the North Carolina professional associations that represent teachers, school administrators, and school board members, as well as many other practitioners, administrators, and researchers from across the State. There was also strong representation from the General Administration of the UNC system, NC State University, and other UNC campuses. NCDPI and FI staff worked closely with each team to pull together the large and complex proposal in time to submit for the January 19 deadline. Funding from multiple members of the NC Network of Grantmakers supported the effort, as did the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which sponsored the involvement of the Boston Consulting Group.

When Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that North Carolina was one of the 16 finalists, Governor Perdue called Friday Institute Executive Director Glenn Kleiman to share the good news and thank the Friday Institute, College of Education, and NC State University for this important service to the State and to NC teachers and students.

“Over the course of ten months we involved over 150 people representing numerous stakeholders in the process. By the time the proposal was submitted, the Friday Institute, by far, had done most of the heavy lifting. I can safely say that without their support, there is no way we could have submitted a proposal of matching caliber,” wrote Bill Harrison in a letter to NCSU Chancellor Jim Woodward.

By engaging such a large cross-section of North Carolinians in the proposal development, North Carolina was able to create a strong proposal that leveraged the expertise of a diverse group of stakeholders. As a result, all 115 Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in the state agreed to participate in implementing the Race to the Top initiatives, making NC one of very few states in which 100 percent of superintendents, local school board chairs, and presidents of the local teacher associations agreed to be partners in this effort.

Each finalist was asked to send a team of five people to present the key ideas of their proposal and respond to questions from the U.S. Department of Education review panel. On March 16, the NC team of Governor Perdue, Bill Harrison, June Atkinson, Glenn Kleiman, and Bill McNeal, Executive Director of the NC Association of School Administrators, traveled to Washington D.C. for the presentation.

Governor Perdue made a strong opening statement about North Carolina’s commitment to educational reform, and each member of the group presented some of the key strengths of the proposal, followed by an hour during which the team responded to very thoughtful questions from the review panel. The DPI leadership team and FI staff helped prepare the presentation and talking points in response to anticipated questions. As a result, the NC team was very ready for what, according to Bill Harrison, felt like a “group dissertation oral exam.”

“The NC Race to the Top proposal was the result of an intense effort by representatives of all the stakeholders groups, and no other state can bring together the collaborative effort focused on improving schools that we have in North Carolina among practitioners, researchers, the state education agency, Colleges and Universities, government leaders, the business community, non-profits, and community-based organizations,” Glenn Kleiman told the review panel.

The Friday Institute believes that North Carolina is well positioned to strengthen the state’s proposal to succeed in the second round.

Additional information:

Phase One State Scores and Comments

Summary of State Scores from Phase One

List of Peer Reviewers

This executive summary provides a brief description of the initiatives proposed in the NC Race to the Top proposal.

To see a video of Secretary Duncan announce the winners, visit this site.

More information about the Race to the Top Fund, is available here.

Contact FI Communications Office