Race to the Top: Implementation and Relationship to Student Outcomes
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included $4.35 billion for Race to the Top (RTT), one of the Obama administration’s signature programs and one of the largest federal government investments in an education grant program. RTT awarded three rounds of grants to states that agreed to implement a range of education policies and practices designed to improve student outcomes. In particular, the program sought to improve student outcomes for high-need students, including English language learners (ELLs).
Given the importance and size of the RTT grant program, the U.S. Department of Education commissioned this evaluation to address the following broad issues:
- Whether states that received an RTT grant used the policies and practices promoted by RTT and how that compares to other states
- Whether use of these policies and practices included a focus on ELLs and whether that focus on ELLs differed between RTT and other states
- Whether receipt of an RTT grant was related to improvement in student outcomes
This final report examines how receipt of RTT grants was related to student achievement over time in six main areas: (1) improving state capacity to support school improvement efforts; (2) adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace; (3) building state data systems that measure student growth and inform instruction; (4) recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals; (5) turning around low-performing schools; and (6) encouraging conditions in which charter schools can succeed.
In sum, it is not clear whether the RTT grants influenced the policies and practices used by states or whether they improved student outcomes.
- In four of the six areas examined, early RTT states reported using more policies and practices promoted by RTT than non-RTT states in spring 2013.
- Later RTT grantees reported using more RTT-promoted policies and practices related to teacher and principal certification and evaluation than non-RTT states in spring 2013.
- Across all states, use of RTT-promoted policies and practices was most common for data systems and least common for teacher and principal certification and evaluation.
- Across the six areas, early RTT states reported using more English language learner (ELL)-focused policies and practices promoted by RTT than non-RTT states.
- Findings from spring 2012 and spring 2013 on states' use of RTT-promoted policies and practices were similar.
- There were no significant differences between RTT and other states in use of RTT-promoted practices over time.
- The relationship between RTT and student outcomes was not clear.