Washington, D.C. was named on March 4, a finalist in Race to the Top, a competition for a portion of the $4.35 billion President Obama has dedicated to fund education. The nation’s capital faces 15 states nationwide for the funds.
District Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and D.C. charter school leaders plan to reduce the number of academically challenged schools, increase standardized test scores, boost high school graduation rates and college enrollment. Rhee also proposed to link achievement information to teacher effectiveness and salary in order to improve instruction.
Although the plan has drawn union opposition, Washington, D.C. beat out 25 states and could win between $20 million and $75 million. Other finalists are Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee.
“I think it was an excellent application that captured the innovative and excellent things happening here in D.C.,” Lisa Raymond, a member of the D.C. State Board of Education, told The Washington Post. “We really are at the forefront of education reform. I think it could be an opportunity for the administration to create a model right here in the view of the White House.”
Through Race to the Top, Obama hopes to expand successful charter schools and eliminate old methods of teacher evaluation in order to improve struggling schools, a direction in which D.C. educational leaders say they are already heading.
After a series of interviews with the finalists, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will decide the winner of the competition in April.
“These states are an example for the country of what is possible when adults come together to do the right thing for children,” Duncan said in a statement. “Everyone that applied for Race to the Top is charting a path for education reform in America.”