Pennsylvania's 'Race to the Top' Fueled by Effective Reforms, Strong Local Support

State Stands to Receive up to $400 Million in Federal Grants to Accelerate Ongoing Educational Gains

HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania's impressive record of academic gains, coupled with an innovative strategy for building on those achievements, puts the state in a strong position to land up to $400 million through the highly competitive federal "Race to the Top" program, Governor Edward G. Rendell said today.

"We have worked hard in recent years to increase the performance of our students, as well as boost the state's commitment to adequate education funding – and we are getting results," Governor Rendell said. "Race to the Top provides us with a unique opportunity to accelerate our efforts."

The commonwealth today formally submitted a "Race to the Top" grant application to the U.S. Department of Education that seeks $400 million for education reforms – the maximum that Pennsylvania would be eligible to receive under federal guidelines.

Pennsylvania and its participating school districts and charter schools plan to use the funding to implement a series of bold and ambitious initiatives at the state and local levels that will provide a strong catalyst towards the goal of ensuring every child receives a quality education that will be the foundation of a lifetime of success.

More than implementing reform, the participating districts and charter schools have made a commitment to meeting ambitious student achievement targets over the next four years, according to Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak.

"In partnership with the leaders of 120 school districts and 59 charters who signed this Memorandum of Understanding, Pennsylvania has crafted a strategy that we believe can successfully double the number of students who hit our proficiency targets by 2014," Dr. Zahorchak said.

Zahorchak noted the list of participating districts and charter schools represents a diverse cross-section of students and includes many of the largest districts in Pennsylvania. The school districts and charter schools that submitted signed agreements collectively enroll more than 650,000 students, including 56 percent of all low-income students, 75 percent of all African-American students, and 71 percent of all Hispanic students.

Zahorchak said Pennsylvania's Race to the Top application will stand out nationally thanks to the strong commitment by local education leaders across the state.

In order to participate in Pennsylvania's Race to the Top application, a school district's superintendent, school board president, and local teacher's union president were required to sign an agreement committing to implement required activities and to meeting student achievement targets. Few states will be able to demonstrate such deep commitment to reform from critical stakeholders, according to Zahorchak.

"Race to the Top represents a historic chance to build on our academic gains, and it affords Pennsylvania a unique opportunity to make our state's teachers unions and their local affiliates full partners in this work," Zahorchak said. "Given that Pennsylvania's law imparts vast powers to our local school boards, they too are critical partners to our school success.

"All of these key partners understand what needs to be accomplished and stand ready to help us do it," he added.

Pennsylvania's application also includes letters of support from more than 130 individuals and entities from across Pennsylvania, including federal and state lawmakers, mayors, business leaders and educators.

The U.S. Department of Education has indicated it will use the level of local support for education reforms as one of the key criteria for gauging the strength of each state's Race to the Top application.

The Race to the Top grant competition represents the largest discretionary funding effort for education reform ever made available by the federal government -- $4.3 billion nationwide. The grants are not formula-based, but rather will be awarded to states that can show the strongest strategies and coordinated commitments to reform.

"President Barack Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan have set high expectations in return for this unprecedented investment," Governor Rendell said. "They expect our schools to live up to the promise of a high-quality education for every child – and Pennsylvania is committed to meeting that expectation."

Pennsylvania's Race to the Top strategies will benefit each of the 1.8 million students in every one of its 500 districts. That's because the commonwealth will use a significant portion of its Race to the Top funding to build and deliver state-level tools and resources for all schools and all districts.

Pennsylvania's Race to the Top application is built around these primary objectives:

  • Increasing student achievement and developing data systems capable of supporting reform: Schools will use real-time student data to guide instruction and help teachers identify students who are at risk academically. Teachers will know exactly where to target additional instruction and support, and parents and students will have an accurate picture of a student's academic and social-emotional strengths and weaknesses.
  • Turning around the lowest performing schools: Pennsylvania's Race to the Top strategy includes identifying schools with the greatest challenges or obstacles to raising student achievement. Certain schools identified as "turnaround schools" will be required to choose one of four turnaround options – options that can include leadership changes or school closure.
  • Creating a world-class system for professional development:  Good leaders are a critical component of good schools, and schools must bolster efforts to attract, prepare and retain the best educators. Pennsylvania will develop a "model career ladder" for the promotion, compensation and advancement of teachers.
  • Developing a robust evaluation system for teachers and leaders: Pennsylvania will develop model evaluation systems so professional evaluations can be used more effectively in schools to inform decisions about professional development, compensation, tenure, and the promotion and retention of effective teachers.
  • Evaluating programs to identify and spread best practices: As Pennsylvania pursues these strategic reforms in thousands of school buildings and classrooms, it must be committed to identifying specific reforms that prove the most effective and make their use more widespread.

In addition to statewide reforms, Race to the Top rules call for at least half of a state's grant to be passed directly through to districts for district- and school-level reforms. Pennsylvania is going beyond this requirement by committing more than half of the funds to reforms at the local level.

To receive a share of this local funding, school districts and charter schools must agree to implement certain reforms and commit to delivering results – significant gains in student achievement that will be measured and for which they will be held accountable.

The memoranda of understanding submitted in recent days by nearly 180 districts and charters outline their commitments to these reforms and will be included as part of Pennsylvania's formal Race to the Top application.

School districts that agreed to join as "participating districts" in Pennsylvania's Race to the Top application will benefit from district allocations ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars for smaller districts to millions of dollars for larger ones. Participating districts can use these funds for proven initiatives such as increased instructional time, teacher training, and creation or expansion of early childhood education programs.

Additionally, Pennsylvania's application provides an even greater level of Race to the Top funding to support activities in 128 persistently low-performing schools that are part of the commonwealth's turnaround school initiative. These schools will share more than $120 million in exchange for committing to one of four bold school intervention models to raise student achievement.

Notably, only 37 Pennsylvania schools met the federal definition for the turnaround initiative, but Pennsylvania recruited more than three times that number – a level of involvement Zahorchak cited as proof of the collective commitment to meaningful reform.

In addition to outlining a vision for future academic growth, Governor Rendell said Pennsylvania's Race to the Top application details its unprecedented improvements in public education in recent years – improvements that will help make the case for winning a portion of the competitive grants.

"Simply put, we know what works to help every child succeed and we want federal officials to know we can do what we commit to doing," the Governor said.

Among the accomplishments outlined in Pennsylvania's Race to the Top application:

  • Pennsylvania has been recognized by the Center for Education Policy, a leading national educational research organization, as the only state to see increases in student achievement in elementary, middle and high school from 2002 to 2008. That progress continued in 2009, and Pennsylvania now has more than three-fourths of its students scoring at grade level in math and reading.
  • Pennsylvania continues to build a nationally recognized system of high-quality early childhood programs – a system that has made us a model for other states.
  • We have helped more than 17,000 high school students take credit-bearing college courses and get a jump start on a college degree while they are still working to earn a high school diploma.
  • We have taken steps to ensure the equitable distribution of school funding across the state, enacting an historic funding formula for the state's basic education subsidy that means the quality of a child's education no longer is dictated by the wealth of that child's ZIP code.
  • Pennsylvania has directed targeted assistance to the highest-need schools in the state, and we have built a world-class data system to track student performance – a data system that has garnered national honors from the Data Quality Campaign.

Today marked the deadline for all states to submit their Race to the Top applications to the federal government to be eligible for the first phase of funding. Awards are expected to be announced in April.

Secretary Zahorchak thanked districts for their swift and decisive response to the Race to the Top opportunity.

"We realize the relatively short time frame for pursuing Race to the Top funds required districts to move quickly to submit materials to us, and as always, educators across the state rose to the challenge," he said. "We hope their hard work in recent weeks will ultimately benefit every child in our schools for years to come."

Editor's Note: A list of school districts and charter schools that submitted memoranda of understanding for Race to the Top is included below.

Participating school districts (those marked with asterisks have at least one school that will participate in the RTTT Turnaround Initiative):

ABINGTON SD

ALIQUIPPA SD**

ALLEGHENY VALLEY SD

ALLENTOWN CITY SD

ARMSTRONG SD

BALD EAGLE AREA SD

BANGOR AREA SD

BELLWOOD-ANTIS SD

BETHLEHEM AREA SD

BIG SPRING SD

BLACKLICK VALLEY SD

BROCKWAY AREA SD

BURRELL SD

CATASAUQUA AREA SD

CENTRAL BUCKS SD

CENTRAL CAMBRIA SD

CENTRAL GREENE SD

CENTRAL YORK SD

CHESTER-UPLAND SD**

CHICHESTER SD

CLAIRTON CITY SD**

COATESVILLE AREA SD

CORNELL SD**

CRESTWOOD SD

CURWENSVILLE AREA SD

DALLAS SD

DERRY AREA SD

DUQUESNE CITY SD**

EAST ALLEGHENY SD**

EAST LYCOMING SD

EAST STROUDSBURG AREA SD

ELIZABETH FORWARD SD

ERIE CITY SD**

FANNETT-METAL SD

FORT LEBOEUF SD

FRAZIER SD

GIRARD SD

GLENDALE SD

GREATER LATROBE SD

GREENSBURG SALEM SD

HARBOR CREEK SD

HARMONY AREA SD

HARRISBURG CITY SD**

HAVERFORD TOWNSHIP SD

HAZLETON AREA SD**

HERMITAGE SD

HOLLIDAYSBURG AREA SD

INDIANA AREA SD

INTERBORO SD

IROQUOIS SD

JEANNETTE CITY SD

JENKINTOWN SD

JIM THORPE AREA SD

KANE AREA SD

KISKI AREA SD

KUTZTOWN AREA SD

LANCASTER SD**

LEBANON SD**

LEHIGHTON AREA SD

MARION CENTER AREA SD

MARPLE NEWTOWN SD

MCKEESPORT AREA SD**

MEYERSDALE AREA SD

MIDLAND BOROUGH SD

MINERSVILLE AREA SD

MOHAWK AREA SD

MONESSEN CITY SD

MONTGOMERY AREA SD

MONTOURSVILLE AREA SD

MORRISVILLE BOROUGH SD

MOUNT UNION AREA SD**

MUHLENBERG SD

NEW BRIGHTON AREA SD

NEW KENSINGTON-ARNOLD SD

NORRISTOWN SD**

NORTH EAST SD

NORTHERN BEDFORD COUNTY SD

NORTHERN CAMBRIA SD

OCTORARA AREA SD

OXFORD AREA SD

PANTHER VALLEY SD

PENN CAMBRIA SD

PENN HILLS SD**

PENNCREST SD

PENN-DELCO SD

PERKIOMEN VALLEY SD

PHILADELPHIA CITY SD**

PITTSBURGH SD**

PITTSTON AREA SD

PLEASANT VALLEY SD

POTTSGROVE SD

POTTSVILLE AREA SD

QUAKER VALLEY SD

QUAKERTOWN COMMUNITY SD

READING SD**

RIVERVIEW SD

SALISBURY-ELK LICK SD

SCHUYLKILL HAVEN AREA SD

SCRANTON CITY SD

SHARON CITY SD

SOUTH PARK SD

SOUTH WESTERN SD

SOUTHEAST DELCO SD**

SOUTHERN YORK CO SD

SPRING COVE SD

SPRING-FORD AREA SD

TURKEYFOOT VALLEY AREA SD**

TUSSEY MOUNTAIN SD

UNION CITY AREA SD

UPPER DARBY SD**

UPPER MORELAND TOWNSHIP SD

WARREN COUNTY SD

WEATHERLY AREA SD

WEST ALLEGHENY SD

WEST YORK AREA SD

WILLIAM PENN SD**

WILLIAMSPORT AREA SD

WILSON SD

WISSAHICKON SD

YORK CITY SD**

Participating Charter Schools

Ad Prima CS

Alliance for Progress CS

Antonia Pantoja Community CS

Architecture and Design CHS

Bear Creek Community CS

Belmont Academy CS

Boys Latin of Philadelphia CS

Center for Student Learning CS at Pennsbury

Chester Community CS

Christopher Columbus CS

Commonwealth Connections Academy CS

Crispus Attucks Youthbuild CS

Delaware Valley CHS

Erin Dudley Forbes CS

First Phila CS for Literacy

Franklin Towne CES

Franklin Towne CHS

Freire CS

Global Leadership Academy CS

Green Woods CS

Hardy Williams Academy CS

Independence CS

Khepera CS

KIPP Academy Charter School

KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School

Laboratory CS

Lehigh Valley CHS for the Performing Arts

Lincoln CS

Lincoln Leadership Academy CS

Lincoln Park Performing Arts CS

Manchester Academic CS

Maritime Academy Charter School

MAST Community Charter School

Mastery CS--Shoemaker Campus

Montessori Regional CS

New Foundations CS

New Hope Academy CS

New Media Technology CS

Nueva Esperanza Academy CS

Pennsylvania Cyber CS

People for People CS

Philadelphia Harambee Inst CS

Philadelphia Performing Arts CS

Planet Abacus CS

Pocono Mountain Charter School

Propel CS-East

Propel CS-Homestead

Propel CS-McKeesport

Propel CS--Montour

Renaissance Acad-Edison CS

Roberto Clemente CS

Russell Byers CS

Sankofa Freedom Academy CS

Tacony Academy CS

Tuscarora Blended Learning CS

Universal Institute CS

Urban League of Pittsburgh CS

West Oak Lane CS

West Phila. Achievement CES

Media contacts:

Michael Race, Department of Education; 717-783-9802

Gary Tuma, Governor's Office; 717-783-1116

SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor



RELATED LINKS
http://www.governor.state.pa.us

Custom Packages

Browse our custom packages or build your own to meet your unique communications needs.

Start today.

 

PR Newswire Membership

Fill out a PR Newswire membership form or contact us at (888) 776-0942.

Learn about PR Newswire services

Request more information about PR Newswire products and services or call us at (888) 776-0942.