Obama Puts Pressure on Race to the Top States

President Obama is putting pressure on the 12 Race to the Top winning entities to make good on their commitments, after all the states announced that they were either scaling down plans or pushing back timelines to overhaul their public-education systems, writes Stephanie Banchero at the Wall Street Journal.

This comes after the Department of Education warned Hawaii that it could face losing the $75 million it won in Race to the Top funding because it is so far off track from making good on its policy pledges.

In a letter from the U.S. Department of Education Policy and Program Implementation Director Governor Neil Abercrombie, the threat was outlined:

"Because of Hawaii's unsatisfactory performance during the first 14 months of the grant, we are placing Hawaii's race to the top grant on high-risk status.

"The State has not demonstrated adequate progress implementing its approved plans. The Department is concerned about the State's ability to fulfill its commitments within the grant period."

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan commented:

"If things don't change, Hawaii is going to end up in a tough spot."

Hawaii was the first state to receive a warning like this, but it was soon followed by Rhode Island and Delaware. Education officials say they are making progress, but have acknowledged that they have hit stumbling blocks to following through with what they promised, writes Banchero.

The Race to the Top initiative led to dozens of states to change laws governing teacher evaluations, adopt new academic standards, alter their approach to fixing low-performing schools and support the growth of charter schools in an attempt to access some of the fund.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia won the competition and through that were given permission from the U.S. Department of Education to alter their plans, with Delaware, Rhode Island, Georgia, Maryland and Hawaii getting permission to push back by a year efforts to link student test scores to teacher evaluations that, in some cases, were to be used for tenure decisions.

But now the Obama Administration is making it clear that they won't wait forever for results. And the states are taking note.

Stephen Schatz, assistant superintendent in the Hawaii education department, said:

"We know implementation has been a bit rocky at times.

"But I am confident we will get back on track."

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