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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Next Steps on Race to the Top

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Commissioner
Date:January 15, 2010


After months of intense work, and after securing a written commitment to participate from 256 districts and charter schools - nearly two thirds of the state - we have completed our Race to the Top application. By the time the Board meets, we will have filed the application on the due date of Tuesday, January 19.

The final application is nearly 200 pages long and has a 600-page set of appendices. Its content was shaped largely through feedback we received over the course of dozens of meetings, forums and webinars with superintendents, school committee members, union leaders, business leaders, educators, parents and other stakeholders, as well as from you, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. I am extremely pleased with the final document, confident that our application is strong and compelling, and hopeful that it will receive serious consideration from the U.S. Department of Education for funding.

Our final application focuses on four key initiatives, which align both with the Board's priorities and the goals of Governor Patrick's Readiness Project. They are:

  1. Developing and retaining an effective, academically capable, diverse, and culturally competent educator workforce
  2. Providing curricular and instructional resources that support teacher effectiveness and success for all students
  3. Concentrating great instruction and supports for educators, students, and families in our lowest performing schools
  4. Increasing our focus on college and career readiness for all students

Now that our application has been submitted, the real work begins. The USED is expected to announce grant awards in early April. If we receive the grant, participating districts will have 90 days to submit their work plans to our Department, detailing how they will use their funding to implement the required initiatives.

Districts were asked to submit a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed by their superintendent, School Committee chair and union president, to signal their support of our initiatives and willingness to implement them. We worked closely with the state leadership of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, Massachusetts Association of School Committees, Massachusetts Teachers Association and American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts to build support, and are grateful for the assistance they were able to provide.

Most gratifying to me is the spirit of collaboration engendered by this effort - between the Department and the MTA, MFT, MASC and MASS state leadership; among local superintendents, local union leaders and school committees; and between the DESE and local officials. We will work to capitalize on the momentum generated and convert this spirit to the implementation of reforms that will benefit all of the Commonwealth's children.

In the end the final tally exceeded our expectations: Of the 256 districts and charter schools that eventually signed on, 147 were cities and towns, 58 were charter schools, 31 were regional school districts and 20 were vocational-technical schools. In all, these districts represent 86 percent of the state's low-income students and 72 percent of K-12 students statewide.

In addition to the 256 that submitted the required signatures, an additional 61 submitted incomplete MOUs. These communities were unable to gain the support of their unions, but submitted their MOUs to put their interest on the record.

Between now and April, when the USED is expected to award the grants, our focus will be on planning and preparing for the work ahead. This will include:

  • Drafting the grant application that districts will need to complete in order to receive their funding
  • Convening participating districts to begin the planning process for implementation
  • Prequalifying vendors that can support the Race to the Top work, so that if we are successful, we can issue contracts immediately
  • Aligning some of our spending from other state and federal sources to support our Race to the Top activities

Throughout our planning process it has become clear to us that the work outlined in our Race to the Top application is, in effect, our strategic plan for the future. To that end, I will continue to update you on our planning and development progress over the coming months, leading up to the USED's decision in April.


Last Updated: January 21, 2010
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