Resetting Race to the Top: Why the Future of Competition Depends on Improving the Scoring Process

Andrew Proctor

In this policy brief, TNTP lauds Race to the Top for spurring more
statewide reform last year in education “than in the previous two
decades,” attributing its success to the clear priorities and guidance
for applicant states, and the transparency established by making
applications available for public review.

However, TNTP criticizes the ambiguity and subjectivity involved in
the review process, and identifies several areas that must be improved
should RttT be reauthorized for a third round:

  1. Lack of differentiation in some areas of scoring, such as in the
    “Great Teachers and Leaders” section, where 86 percent of second-round
    applicants received high points and no state received low points. 
  2. General rating inflation, especially from Round 1 to 2.
  3. Deviation from the scoring guidance.
  4. Excessive influence of outlier ratings on final scores, most notably
    for state like Louisiana, which many commentators believed deserved an
  5. Inconsistent scoring from state to state. For example, Illinois
    enacted five pieces of education reform legislation and secured
    participation from districts representing 81 percent of students in the
    state.  Ohio secured significantly less participation from districts
    representing only 62 percent of students in the state, and had not
    enacted legislation to the degree of Illinois.  In this section Ohio
    outscored Illinois by six points. 

TNTP suggests that these issues allowed for possibly less-deserving
states to win at the expense of states truly committed to reform. 

States were also not rewarded for their depth of commitment to
education reform.  States such as Colorado and Louisiana took
significant steps to solidify reform policies through legislation, but
their application scores do not reflect this commitment.  Ohio and
Hawaii, on the other hand, made no legislative commitments as part of
their applications, yet still managed to secure awards.

TNTP recommends that if Race to the Top is repeated the Department of
Education should establish a cross-application review process where
applicant reviews are analyzed by other reviewers according to a
consistent standard.  This will reduce the subjectivity, inflation, and
inconsistency that affected applicants adversely. Also, Secretary Duncan
should make the final executive decision based on the peer scores and
ensure that the contest’s outcomes match its reform priorities. 

Read it here.

Resetting Race to the Top: Why the Future of Competition Depends on Improving the Scoring Process
The New Teacher Project (TNTP)
December 2010