Center for American Progress

RELEASE: As States Spend the Last of Race to the Top Dollars, New CAP Analysis Finds That More Than Half of Funds Were Used for Investments in Educators
Press Release

RELEASE: As States Spend the Last of Race to the Top Dollars, New CAP Analysis Finds That More Than Half of Funds Were Used for Investments in Educators

Race to the Top, or RTT, program, funded by the Recovery Act, delivered $4.35 billion to states to spur K-12 education improvements; CAP report finds RTT funds were used for investments in educators, increased state capacity, redefined the role of state education agencies, and generated unprecedented collaboration across states and districts.

Washington, D.C. — As states spend the last of their Race to the Top, or RTT, dollars, a new report from the Center for American Progress finds that more than half of the funds disbursed under RTT were used for investments in educators and delivered a host of other improvements to state educational agencies, or SEAs.

“Race to the Top’s impact will continue to reverberate for years to come, but in the short term, we know this: The majority of program funds went to instructional and curricular supports, direct educator supports, and pre-service supports—which are all investments in teachers,” said Scott Sargrad, Director of Standards and Accountability at CAP. “Race to the Top not only helped move extraordinarily important policy reforms, but provided the impetus and resources for states to turn around struggling schools and change the capacity and culture of state educational agencies.”

Formulated as a competitive grant program to spur K-12 education improvements under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, RTT was backed by $4.35 billion in federal funds, which constituted less than 5 percent of the nearly $100 billion education stimulus package. In its analysis, CAP used SEA spending data from the 12 RTT grant-winning states’ annual performance reports, finding that SEAs used approximately 58 percent of their state-level funding on systems, programming, and supports that directly benefitted educators. In addressing RTT’s four focus areas—standards and assessments, data systems, great teachers and leaders, and school turnaround—states spent 27 percent, or $348 million, on instructional and curricular supports; 20 percent, or $263 million, on direct educator supports; and 11 percent, or $150 million, on pre-service supports. In contrast, states spent only 9 percent—or $111.5 million—of their RTT funding on educator evaluation systems.

In its analysis, CAP also found that the RTT program brought wide-ranging benefits to SEAs, districts, and schools. The RTT program allowed states to take bold, new approaches to turning around low-performing schools that were failing to serve students and communities. While a previous CAP report found that SEAs were more focused on compliance than innovation, faced bureaucratic obstacles to reform, and often operated in silos, the RTT program helped increase state capacity and redefined the role of SEAs. Commissioners from states including New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island have emphasized that RTT helped transform many SEAs from compliance-driven agencies into offices of innovation and support. Finally, CAP’s report found that RTT generated unprecedented collaboration, helping to encourage states and districts to work together and to coordinate policy and resources.

CAP’s report concludes with a series of recommendations in order for states to continue the progress made under the RTT program. Those recommendations include:

  • Congress should create state-level competitive programs that incorporate RTT principles to spur reform and innovation.
  • The U.S. Department of Education should continue to support state collaboration and help states figure out how to sustain and build on RTT work after the grants are completed.
  • States should determine which RTT projects and activities have been the most effective and should prioritize securing state and local funding to sustain these projects and activities to ensure their continued long-term benefits.

Click here to read “Investing in Educator Capacity: An Analysis of State Race to the Top Spending” by Scott Sargrad, Samantha Batel, Melissa Lazarín, and Catherine Brown.