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Virginia is out of Race to the Top
Governor opts out of competition for funds
Thursday, May 27, 2010
RICHMOND (AP) - Virginia doesn't plan to apply for the second round of federal Race to the Top funding for public-education reform programs because of concerns about a federal push for a common core of educational standards and assessments.
Gov. Bob McDonnell wrote in a letter Wednesday to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan that the state has decided against seeking the money because chances of winning any are slim. He also objected to a requirement that states adopt common standards, noting that Virginia has a successful set of existing accountability initiatives.
The deadline for states to apply for about $3.4 billion in grants is June 1.
"I do not support the federal mandate of the adoption of common core standards as part of the RTTT (Race to the Top) program, and neither do many of our leading legislators and educators in Virginia," McDonnell said in his letter.
McDonnell also said that Virginia has had its Standards of Learning curriculum and testing program in place for more than a decade, and the state shouldn't set those aside for standards that "have not been completed, implemented or fully evaluated." He also said state education officials can't put the existing program on hold while a federal system is put in place.
Under Race to the Top, the U.S. Department of Education asked states to highlight their efforts in four areas: adopting standards and assessments to better prepare students for careers and college; attracting effective teachers and principals and improving their performance; turning around low-performing schools; and creating data systems to improve instruction and track student performance.
Virginia was unsuccessful in its first-round application. Federal education officials told the state Department of Education in March that the state fell short in demonstrating its efforts to boost teacher quality and to adopt common national standards and assessments.
State education officials have said that because of the common-standards requirement, Race to the Top grants might not be won by states that already have achieved some success in improving education, and that Virginia is ahead of other states still trying to implement credible reform programs.
"It is obvious from the critique Virginia received from the Round One grant process that we will be marked down dramatically in the peer review process to the point that we will not be competitive," McDonnell said. He also urged Duncan to remove common-core standards requirements from federal grant programs to permit "high-performing states like Virginia" to have a chance at federal funding.
Delaware won $100 million and Tennessee won $500 million in the first round.
Virginia is among several states that decided against applying for the final round of grants. Neighboring West Virginia also opted to forgo the process after the legislature was unable to agree on a package of education reforms during a recent special session.
McDonnell said in his letter he supports Race to the Top's goal to improve public schools, and cited Virginia's efforts to expand charter schools and create college-laboratory schools and virtual schools.