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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on Race to the Top

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:April 16, 2010

We were disappointed to learn on March 30 that Massachusetts was not selected as one of the two states that won in the first round of Race to the Top. Since that time we have closely reviewed the feedback we received from the U.S. Department of Education (USED) reviewers and analyzed the point structure to better understand where we gained and lost the most points.

We have already begun to review, revise and strengthen our application, and fully intend to reapply for Round 2. Much of our application is strong, but we are focused on improving several key areas prior to the June 1 deadline:

  • Increase statewide participation. A total of 256 districts and charter schools signed a Memorandum of Understanding prior to our Round 1 submission, committing to participate in Race to the Top initiatives. This totaled about two-thirds of the state.
  • Revisions to Great Teachers and Leaders. We lost the most points in this section. Reviewer feedback stressed that the section focused too much on process and pilots, and not enough on outcome.
  • Strengthen implementation plans. Throughout the proposal we lost several points from reviewers who felt that we were unclear on how we would implement the initiatives detailed in our proposal.
  • Cut $37 million from the budget. The USED has asked states to limit their budgets to the amount they were initially quoted during Round 1. Massachusetts was quoted a budget of between $150 and $250 million. Our final budget totaled $287 million.

In addition to these areas, Massachusetts lost 15 points for not agreeing to adopt the Common Core Standards by August 2, 2010. This was a difficult loss, given the work we have done to help in the development of these standards. That said, we remain committed to adopting the Common Core Standards only if we confirm that they are either as strong as or stronger than the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks.

Stakeholder engagement

As we did in Round 1, we have plans underway to engage stakeholders from across the Commonwealth in the revision of our application, and to build support for the initiatives. Among them:

  • We launched a survey during the first two weeks in April to identify the highest priorities in our Round 1 application. Results will be used to help gauge which items should remain untouched when we cut the budget.
  • We have invited representatives from all of the state's key education associations and other stakeholders to participate in teams to help us vet revisions in each of the four sections of the application. Each group will attend three meetings to reflect on the Round 1 application, to respond to a "straw man" proposal for revisions, and to provide feedback on a near-final draft narrative prior to the application deadline.
  • We have scheduled 7 regional meetings across the state to discuss changes in the application, provide details about the initiatives, and help district leaders better understand how their community would benefit from participation.

Time is extremely short, but we are committed to this work and believe that by June 1 our proposal will be stronger and more competitive than it was in Round 1. Members of my senior staff will walk you through key issues that we are working to address, and we welcome your feedback. For your review we have enclosed the Massachusetts Round 1 score sheet from the USED reviewers, and a rank-ordered listing of all of the states that submitted an application and their final scores.

Enclosures

Download PDF Document
Panel Review Scores for Massachusetts, Phase 1
Download MS EXCEL Document
Phase 1 Scores by State


Last Updated: April 20, 2010
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