As we noted in today's Morning Fizz, Gov. Chris Gregoire was set to officially send Washington State's application for Race to the Top funding ($250 million in federal education assistance) to the Department of Education today.
She held the press conference this afternoon at a middle school in Lacey.
PubliCola has been skeptical of Washington State's chances because our education reform bill—the blueprint for our application—fell short on several of President Obama's (and his aggressive Department of Education head, Arne Duncan's) standards. Without uniform standards for teacher evaluations that are also tied to student achievement, for example, our application merely gives lip service to one of the centerpieces of Obama's overhaul. And our application doesn't even broach charter schools, another Obama prerequisite.
However, Gregoire's application does hit some reform litmus tests, like allowing alternative routes to teacher certification and empowering the state to head up makeover efforts at failing schools.
And perhaps a much bigger deal in Washington's favor: While other states tack more closely to Obama's standards on charters and teacher evaluations, they can't demonstrate buy-in from local districts (and unions). Gregoire made a point of getting local school boards, local unions, local superintendents, and local principals to sign off on the RTTT application. So, while our plan might not be splashy with radical reforms, it might actually be realistic. This will certainly be Washington State's pitch when Gregoire's representatives travel to DC this summer as part of the application process. Two-hundred sixty-five out of 295 districts signed off on the application.
One of the loudest critics of the timid legislation during the session was state schools superintendent Randy Dorn. He called for stronger teacher evaluation standards. Today, however, Dorn joined Gregoire to announce the application.
“Our work continues and we are still very engaged in this important effort,” said Dorn. “We need to keep building on the momentum we’ve made in the past year to create a brighter future for all of Washington’s students.”
Finalists will be announced in late July or early August. Winners will be announced in September.