Island schools to benefit from Race to the Top funds


Massachusetts is a winner of federal Race to the Top education funds, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced Tuesday.

As one of 10 states selected in the second phase of the Race to the Top competition, Massachusetts will receive a grant of $250 million over the next three years to help transform the K-12 education system.

“We’re excited the state has been selected, because it will mean some money for the Island schools,” superintendent of Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools James Weiss said in a phone call yesterday.

“It’s not a lot for us, maybe around $100,000 for all of our schools over three years, but it’s something,” he added. “It is going to help us in some of the initiatives that we’ve already begun. Teacher evaluation, a focus on the national standards and curriculum, our work in student assessment, those are some of those things that are going to be included.”

The $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund includes $4 billion for statewide reform grants and $350 million to support states working together to improve the quality of their assessments, according to a DOE press release.

The Race to the Top state competition is designed to reward states that lead the way in comprehensive, coherent, statewide education reform across four key areas. Those include standards and assessments, data systems that measure growth and success, recruiting, developing, rewarding and retaining effective teachers and principals, and turning around the lowest performing schools, the release said.

In a phone call with The Times last January, Mr. Weiss discussed the local implications of the state’s entry into the competition for education funds.

“The idea of Race to the Top is a significant change to the way we do business, things like signing on to what are going to become national standards, doing teacher evaluations in a different way, and working closely with our teachers to change how we educate youngsters,” Mr. Weiss said. “What the Vineyard schools have done, all of them, is working with our teachers’ association, we signed on, and said we would like the Commonwealth to get this money. And if the Commonwealth does, we would be willing to participate in the project.”

In January Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and the legislature passed a new education reform bill.

Massachusetts, however, and other states lost out to Tennessee and Delaware in an earlier round of Race to the Top Funds awarded last spring. Since then, state education officials agreed to sign on to a set of federal education standards they assure will be as rigorous as the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.