Race to the Top is a grant program designed to encourage states towards educational reform. As one of the second round winners, North Carolina fought against some heavy contenders for the Race to the Top money, including California. In order to win, North Carolina needed to prove that they were committed to educational reform. This prize money is estimated at about $400 million out of the $4.35 billion that the federal government will grant the winning states. Race to the Top grant winners were determined based on a series of criteria that included commitment to change and charter school funding.
As part of the state’s Race to the Top grant application, Governor Bev Purdue has vowed to continue her Ready, Set, Go! Program that focuses on teacher retention, creating higher-performing schools overall, and increasing technology in the classroom. Purdue claims that this program will increase the likelihood that high school graduates will be well-prepared for their future, regardless of their background.
Schools will also undergo changes, becoming closer to charter schools in their flexibility regarding curriculum. Like charter schools, after receiving funding from the Race to the Top grant, public schools will be able to implement innovative ways for students to learn without fearing repercussions if the programs do not work immediately. By permitting schools to try new ways of teaching, low-performing schools in which the current curricula is not working will be able to allow their students more opportunity for growth.
Additionally, according to the application submitted during the process to obtain Race to the Top grant funding, Governor Purdue has vowed that North Carolina will show continued commitment to students across all grade spans, including preschool through graduate school. Schools must also show accountability in the form of what she has termed “robust data systems” to ensure that students continue to show quantifiable progress toward her goal of creating a legion of graduates ready to tackle an ability-appropriate goal in their adult life. Principals and teachers will also be held accountable, and removed from duty if they cannot demonstrate effectiveness within their schools.
North Carolina has shown a great deal of progress in past years, as well as a commitment toward education. However, the state has not been able to demonstrate significant growth on NAEP since the year 2000. In order to make our money from Race to the Top worthwhile, North Carolina will need to show additional commitment to change.
The innovative technology usage in the classroom has benefited many. Chatham County has implemented the use of laptops for every student, as well as Smart Boards for teachers. This will ideally help disadvantaged students become less disadvantaged as they move into an increasingly tech-savvy world. Being able to expand on programs such as this will benefit students in North Carolina greatly, and North Carolina’s already-demonstrated commitment to such programs is no doubt part of what allowed the state to win the Race to the Top grant money.
Overall, this money would benefit most states, and the race to win the Race to the Top money was no doubt tight. North Carolina can do a great deal with this money by expanding upon initiatives already in place, as well as creating new ones designed to bring up low-performing schools and students.