By Danny Yadron | for McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — When Education Secretary Arne Duncan inserted a half-page program description into the economic stimulus act last year, few except top Democratic leaders knew that it would create Race to the Top, a multibillion-dollar sweepstakes to overhaul U.S. schools that gave Duncan’s department unprecedented power.

With only $4.3 billion — less than 1 percent of federal, state and local education dollars — Race to the Top is one of many small, relatively inexpensive projects that lawmakers plopped into the recovery act. What’s striking about the competition, which awards millions to the states that best adopt Duncan-backed policies, is that the secretary arguably got more states to buy his brand of change in 18 months than any other U.S. school chief had in the Cabinet-level Education Department’s 29-year history.

Forty-one states applied for the first round. Tennessee and Delaware were declared victors in March, and state education leaders spent the spring badgering their legislatures to pass Race to the Top-friendly laws for round two. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia submitted applications by the June 1 deadline. Duncan selected 18 finalists in late July and will announce the winners of the latest go-around in September.

Last month, the secretary referred to it as part of a “quiet revolution” in U.S. school systems.

“States were willing to change their policies based on a gamble,” said Brenda Welburn, the executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education. “I didn’t think they would invest the level of energy they really did.”

It wouldn’t always have worked out this way. The biggest teachers’ union, the National Education Association, and other critics oppose making federal school dollars — usually controlled by formula — a contest. Lawmakers are loath to give so much control to the White House.

The inclusion of Race to the Top in the stimulus package, however, gave Duncan a unique opportunity: a peaking movement for change, a stimulus package laced with $100 billion in education money and a country of cash-starved states.

“The talk at the time was about this was going to be Arne Duncan’s slush fund,” said Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, a former Education Department official who’s now with The Brookings Institution, a center-left policy research organization in Washington. “I don’t think the administration knew what it was going to be or that Congress knew what it was going to do.”

Duncan set aside most of his agency’s stimulus money for quick cash injections such as student aid or propping up school budgets. Race to the Top, on the other hand, wasn’t an economic stimulus measure but a chance to influence education policy while Congress was preoccupied with jobs bills, regulatory restructuring and a Supreme Court nominee.

When Duncan announced the first winners in March — $100 million to Delaware and $500 million to Tennessee — it became pretty clear what he wanted: The finalists generally had lifted limits on charter schools, found some way to tie teacher ratings to students’ test scores and signed on to the Common Core Standards, a national curriculum movement that sets benchmarks in English and math through the 12th grade.

The program springs from a single sentence inserted in the stimulus law. Though it suggests that Duncan account for things such as teacher quality, data use, new standardized tests and school turnaround, it also allows for “criteria as the secretary deems appropriate.”

Duncan had championed contests since he was the CEO of Chicago’s public schools, where he experimented with competitive pilot projects. The results, by most accounts, were mixed.

Race to the Top was a chance to take the concept national, said Jon Schnur, a former Duncan adviser who’s credited with creating the national competition. After repeated talks with Reps. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee, and David Obey, D-Wis., the head of the House Appropriations Committee, Duncan gained custody of just over $4 billion. Schnur conceded that Race to the Top probably would have had few supporters in Congress as a standalone project.

When Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, the No. 2 Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, was asked whether lawmakers grasped the program’s scope, he said: “No. I understood it, but that’s because I’ve been following the issues long enough.”

Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, who was then the top GOP member on the House education panel, still pleads ignorance, and called Race to the Top an “administration deal,” though he said he didn’t press for answers at a small White House education lunch in February 2009. As Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., put it, “You could figure it out if you wanted to.”

All three lawmakers said they now generally supported Race to the Top, but none was as effusive as Miller was.

“These are my best hopes,” he said in May. “You see people doing things that a year ago they said they would never, ever agree to.”

North Carolina Republican state lawmakers cited the White House when they tried to lift the state’s cap on the number of charter schools in May. A Democratic majority defeated the measure, however.

Colorado’s Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter signed a teaching overhaul bill weeks before the round two deadline, despite opposition from the state’s largest teachers union.

Lawmakers in Louisiana and Minnesota are considering similar measures, and performance statutes have passed in Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, Tennessee and Washington state.

Opposition to at least some of Duncan’s goals remains, however. Most teachers’ groups charge that it makes scapegoats out of educators; old-school Democrats loathe its reliance on charters; and others think that using a contest is unfair.

“We don’t want vital school funding to come with Ed McMahon’s picture on it,” Lily Eskelsen, the vice president of the National Education Association, said in reference to the late American Family Publishers sweepstakes hawker. “You, too, can be a winner.”

Still, the Obama administration has requested $1.3 billion for round three next year, and most on Capitol Hill predict that the program will continue.

More from McClatchy


113 Responses to “RACE TO THE TOP: How Arne Duncan is rewriting U.S. education”

  1. Pretty beneficial post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have incredibly enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I am going to be subscribing for ones feed and I hope you article again soon.

  2. Thanks for your very informative post, I have bookmarked your site, thanks much!

  3. good post, added you to my RSS reader.

  4. Good Day! This is an awesome article buddy. Thanks for sharing! However I’m experiencing problem with your RSS feed. Unable to subscribe to it. Does anyone else having similar RSS issue?

  5. auction says:

    good post, added you to my RSS reader.

  6. Taekwondo says:

    Incredible a couple of totally unusual wisecracks on this one reckon users currently have nothing more advantageous to carry out.

  7. Javale McGee says:

    guess what? I like what you wrote, added you to my FeeBurner.

  8. womens shoes size 5 – interesting subject – just a brief post to express to you that i really enjoyed your post. nicely done.

  9. Wonderful webpage I recently enjoy an individual’s content ! Or perhaps purchasing is this fact a zero cost Live journal motif or maybe do you find it customized ? I enjoy it in all honesty :)

  10. It can be our part as superb Christians to support happen the name of Christ

  11. clock jewels says:

    Thanks for your very informative post, I have bookmarked your site, thanks much!

  12. good post, added you to my RSS reader. Hope it works with my FeedBurner

  13. Gentleman isn’t really no expense except federal government govt is constrained. There is a crystal clear bring about and effect appropriate right here that may be absolutely a elegant and predictable being a legislation of physics: As government authorities expands, liberty contracts. -Ronald Regan

  14. There are some interesting points in time in this clause but I don’t know if I see all of them heart to center . There is some validness but I will hold legal opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner likewise.

  15. Thanks so much for this! I have not been this thrilled by a blog for a long time! You have got it, whatever that means in blogging. Anyway, You’re definitely someone that has something to say that people need to hear. Keep up the wonderful job. Keep on inspiring the people!

  16. Kelly Selig says:

    It’s too late to get a that breaks down an acquirement for a.

  17. Parker Rezac says:

    Now there is also scientific research germane to because many of them have forums as well.

  18. Alright, so I might sound mildly crazy here, but each time I see , I end up with.

  19. Hi; Great post for me. Your post has valuable infos. I wish to has valuable posts like yours in my blog. How do you make these posts?

  20. Rene Sherill says:

    I’m rarin’ to go.

  21. can have a profound effect on a passel of guests.

  22. oyun oyna says:

    Hello; Great informations for me. Your post has good quality. I wish to has valuable posts like yours in my blog. How do you make these posts?

  23. Qualified people matter a great deal in.

  24. e okul says:

    Hi; Nice informations for me. Your post has good quality. I wish to has good posts like yours in my website. How do you find these posts?

  25. Hi; Excellent post for me. Your post has good quality. I want to has good posts like yours in my blog. How do you find these posts?

  26. Escort bayan says:

    Thanks very good \o/

  27. Я не нашла гостевой поэтому пишу тут. Какой толк от регистрации у вас если можно писать комментарии сразу на новости ?

  28. orjin krem says:

    Thanks very good \o/

  29. porno says:

    Thanks very good \o/

  30. This shouldn’t… can be for everyone.

  31. is insane! Sure, it’s all salient.

  32. Thanks very good \o/

  33. It’s unusual for me to discover something on the net that’s as entertaining and fascinating as what you’ve got here. Your page is sweet, your graphics are great, and what’s more, you use reference that are relevant to what you are talking about. You are certainly one in a million, keep up the good work!

  34. oyunlar says:

    Thanks very good \o/

  35. hileler says:

    Thanks very good \o/

  36. Prnhub says:

    Thanks very good \o/

  37. The Polish crash had not only the Pres but the army chief of staff, national bank president, deputy foreign minister, army chaplain, head of the National Security Office,

  38. I have been browsing a few posts and have enjoyed it. Keep it up

  39. I value the blog article.Thanks Again. Awesome.

  40. Alva Dimas says:

    Now, there is no question that adds to the credibility to doing this.

  41. Really appreciate you sharing this blog post. Want more.

  42. Awesome blog article.Really thank you! Keep writing.

  43. Porno izle says:

    great thanks man…

  44. dizi izle says:

    great thanks man…

  45. Orchard bank says:

    Good day, This specific web blog is truly fascinating and satisfaction to study. I’m a huge supporter from the things discussed. I also get pleasure from learning the testimonials, but learn that alot of people ought to remain on essay to try and add worth towards the authentic blog publish. I’d also motivate every single individual to book mark this web page for any preferred assistance to help distributed the appearance.

  46. izlesene says:

    great thanks man…

  47. Hi, I can’t figure out how to add your site in my rss reader. Can you tell me what I’m doing wrong, please.

  48. Make your best attempt at using this.

  49. In a nutshell, here it is: I have missed the boat on that one.

  50. Отличная статья! большое спасибо автору за интересный материал. Удачи в развитии!!! :)

    Кстати я нашел это видео и весь день ржал ))
    для сайта

  51. program says:

    great thanks man…

  52. beslenme says:

    great thanks man…

  53. It was because of so that I still have a few perceptions for.

  54. Sung Amburgy says:

    I can see that you’re an expert at your field! I’m starting a website soon, and your information can be really helpful for me.. Many thanks for all you assist and wishing all of you the success inside your business.

  55. Issac Maez says:

    wonderful blog good info congrats. To get the best online casino advice click on the link

  56. porno says:

    good thanks \o/

  57. Will you need to insist on more respecting ?

  58. A pontificating potentate, with extreme hubris, he could have taken the train, or the helo? or the limos

  59. Great Post. Really it will help lot of people. Thanks for the post.

  60. This is getting a bit more subjective, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like ‘Mixview’ that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you’re listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of “neighbors” will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune “Social” is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.

  61. Rubin Pacho says:

    merely have got to mention you put together several very good facts and will probably put up a small amount of concepts to add in shortly after a day or two.

  62. online izle says:

    good (article|information) thanks

  63. Good Night, I don’t usually post suggestions on internet, when i prefer to see only. Nevertheless We discover the publish you have created earlier offers very insightful info, and i uncover it very educational. I was searching on Aol four information on self improvement and discovered your useful post. Would you post some thing the same insightful on how to self enhance fast? Cheers.

  64. I just stumbled on your blog when i was lookng on Yahoo. I have to say that the subject matter here was the most complet that I found anywhere. I am definitly bookmarkin this to be bck and study later

  65. sesli sohbet says:

    good (article|information) thanks

  66. Sunny Colier says:

    That will be an old truth.

  67. Elvie Edell says:

    Hello, this is my 1st comment on ur site. I’ve been studying it for a although in my RSS reader but haven’t commented ahead of. Anyways, thank you for the post

  68. RayJ says:

    Hi there could I use some of the material from this blog if I provide a link back to your site?

  69. zwrot podatku z holandia, praca na terenie holandii, zwrot podatku holandia, odzyskaj zwrot podatku

  70. Chin Tutino says:

    Reading this particular I believed it was very informative. I appreciate you taking the time to put this blog piece together. I once once again discover myself investing method to much time both reading and leaving comments. No matter what, it had been nevertheless worthwhile

  71. porno says:

    thanks for post

  72. Edison Wier says:

    When you get your personal apple ipad time, perhaps you should also possess your own ipad Case and ipad Accessories to better safeguard the ipad. Whenever you arrived at the site, the first you need to know is that you can purchase the best quality and most expensive ipad situation, additionally your preferred apple ipad instances and apple ipad add-ons. You will find hundreds kinds of ipad case

  73. Poker zasady says:

    Literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children. Life is the other way round.

  74. Chippy D says:

    I had issues with your website on my browser and had to refresh the page a couple of times…

  75. Wonderful!!! Saved this page that has this particular striking guidance. Is to determine if there are any updates. A person, the writer, really are a grasp. Thanks

  76. shirt says:

    Pierre Cassi Markasi Moda Dünyasinda 35 yili askin süredir var Bu süre zarfinda Pierre Cassi Markamiz Guncel Moda trendlerinin yaninda Sokak Modasina da Ayak Uyduracak Yeni ürünler Üretmektedir. Ürünlerde Baslicalari Chino Spor Pantalon Modeline Fark Yikama ve Model degisikligi uygulamistir.

  77. Riley Erfert says:

    Hello could I use some of the insight present in this web site basically give a link to your site?

  78. Hey I dont mean to spam, but have you ever thought about adding an exit splash to your website? Its really easy to do and you will instantly gain a lot more sales. You can learn some more at

  79. Laptop says:

    great thanks

  80. great thanks

  81. Very good report we need to spread the word about this website.You should have more recognition .

  82. Oyun says:

    good information

  83. anlik haber says:

    Apple now has Rhapsody as an app, which is a great start, but it is currently hampered by the inability to store locally on your iPod, and has a dismal 64kbps bit rate. If this changes, then it will somewhat negate this advantage for the Zune, but the 10 songs per month will still be a big plus in Zune Pass’ favor.

  84. Sam says:

    Hi there could I use some of the material from this blog if I provide a link back to your site?

  85. Hello, this site is very useful. Thanks for article but your logo is not showing

  86. oto kiralama says:

    I added Google Reader to your site when I have spare time try to follow.

  87. escort bayan says:

    thanks, great article

  88. Hi all its just me one more time definitely figured that I would pop back again and know in which way the discussion seemed to be progressing.

  89. Shauna Sand says:

    What a good way to discuss

  90. sohbet says:

    thanks, great article

  91. Thanks for sharing this helpful info!

  92. Dbol says:

    Thankful i discovered , this website, Another good site is Dbolwill be sure to take a note of it so i can check-out regularly.

  93. Thanks for posting this info. I just want to let you know that I just check out your site and I find it very interesting and informative.

  94. oto kiralama says:

    Hands down, Apple’s app store wins by a mile. It’s a huge selection of all sorts of apps vs a rather sad selection of a handful for Zune. Microsoft has plans, especially in the realm of games, but I’m not sure I’d want to bet on the future if this aspect is important to you. The iPod is a much better choice in that case.

  95. Thanks a ton for putting this up, it was very informative and helped a lot

  96. Chippy D says:

    very good insight, I really enjoyed reading this, keep it up!

  97. Don’t leave this comment on your blog, but you can get a TON more traffic if you use

  98. liked this article!

  99. For those who have arrived at that point and imagine, Oh Far from it! I insolvent all those policy and then many, This does not imply the situation can be hopeless – Far from it! Yopu must have a bit more help to fix things, yet you ve kept a massive gamble to denote this instance round. When you are nonetheless a bit undefined how you can proceed with here, what is one of the best way to become your ex earlier We actually direct you for getting one of several superb “get your first love boyfriend once more” platforms that are available on line.

  100. Jen Barrios says:

    Why your site not working in IE7

  101. Victor Racey says:

    I have noticed that over the last year.

  102. Sam Jones says:

    Would you mind if I reference a few sentences from your post? I’m researching for project for highschool. Thanks!