NY among 'Race to the Top' education grant winners

August 24, 2010 2:32:10 PM PDT
New York is among nine states and the District of Columbia getting money to reform schools in the second round of the "Race to the Top" grant competition, the U.S. Education Department said Tuesday.

Sandy Sobey is a mother of 3 who will soon enter the New York City Public school system. She believes the newly awarded multi-million dollar federal grant will go a long way.

"Now the task is to allocate it in the right way and be very careful about that," she said.

It's being called a big win for New York, one of ten recipients sharing roughly 3.4 billion dollars. A large chunk of that money, between 250 and 300 million dollars, will go directly to New York City schools.

It's all part of Race to The Top, a historic competition, part of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan, rewards states for taking up ambitious changes to improve struggling schools.

"His legacy, if he really keeps going on this way, will be education, much more so than anything else," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The department chose nine states - Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island - and the District of Columbia for the grants. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said 25,000 schools will get money to raise student learning and close the achievement gap.

The competition instigated a wave of reforms across the country, as states passed new teacher accountability policies and lifted caps on charter schools to boost their chances of winning.

New York State education officials plan to use the money to write new tests, create a more rigorous curriculum, build new data bases to track students, create a new teacher evaluation system and overhaul low performing schools.

"It's going to be staged over the next four years, but we're working on a lot of initiatives. Not all will be up and running in first 3 to 6 months of school year," Chancellor Joel Klein said.

New York was passed over in the first round. There were no provisions in the law for more charter schools and no system tying teacher evaluations to student achievement.

"You would not want any child to be in any schools that have succeeded in managing to survive when they shouldn't have," New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner said.

Connecticut didn't make it to the finals and although New Jersey did, it was passed over. All may not be lost as phase 3 could be down the line with 1.35 billion dollars up for grabs.