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Ohio One Year into Race to the Top

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 6:00 AM

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan chats with a Cleveland student on a visit to the city last fall. Race to the Top is one of Duncan's signature education initiatives.

It's been a year and a half since Ohio won $400 million dollars in the second round of the federal Race to the Top program. The Department of Education has taken a look at Ohio's progress in the first full school year since then, and officials sounded pretty pleased with the state's progress in 2010-2011.

A Department of Education spokesperson said on background that although the department doesn't compare states' progress, Ohio has done well in its progress with its acceptance of the Common Core Standards (a common curriculum to be shared by all Ohio schools), expansion of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation STEM Teacher Fellowship Program, and other efforts.

Ohio has also created the Ohio Appalachian Initiative to improve rural school districts, started the turn-around process in 35 poorly performing schools, and created the Innovation School Models competitive grant intended to reward innovative education that enhances college readiness and STEM programs.

Also of note was the fact that about 10 percent of Ohio schools that started out in the Race to the Top program have since dropped out, declining from about 540 districts to nearly 480.

The bulk of those were small districts or charter schools. They received relatively little of the $400 million pie, the bulk of which went to the state's large, urban schools. Some of those smaller districts may have decided the reforms required of them were not worth the funds they were receiving.

To combat the trend, Ohio has started an outreach effort to encourage school districts to work with the program.

In a press release, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he was impressed by the 12 Race to the Top states that were awarded funding in the first two rounds of funding.

"Race to the Top states have made tremendous strides in this first year," Duncan said. "These twelve states have acted with courage and commitment in taking on ambitious education reform. Their year one work has helped lay the foundation for long-term, statewide improvements centered on doing what's best for students."

The Department of Education will continue to write annual progress reports through the end of the four year program.

The final federal spending bill for this year included $550 million for additional Race to the Top funds. Those will likely go to the existing Early Language Challenge and creating a district-level competition.

You can read this year's report below.

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