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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Fact Sheet: The Race to the Top

Promoting Innovation, Reform, and Excellence in America’s Public Schools

“America will not succeed in the 21st century unless we do a far better job of educating our sons and daughters… And the race starts today.  I am issuing a challenge to our nation’s governors and school boards, principals and teachers, businesses and non-profits, parents and students: if you set and enforce rigorous and challenging standards and assessments; if you put outstanding teachers at the front of the classroom; if you turn around failing schools – your state can win a Race to the Top grant that will not only help students outcompete workers around the world, but let them fulfill their God-given potential.”

- President Barack Obama
July 24, 2009

Providing a high-quality education to every young American is vital to the health of our nation’s democracy and the strength of our nation’s economy.  In a 21st century world, education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success – it is a prerequisite.

The Obama Administration is committed to reforming America’s public schools to provide every child access to a complete and competitive education.  President Obama recently presented states with an unprecedented challenge and the opportunity to compete in a “Race to the Top” designed to spur systemic reform and embrace innovative approaches to teaching and learning in America’s schools.  Backed by a historic $4.35 billion investment, the reforms contained in the Race to the Top will help prepare America’s students to graduate ready for college and career, and enable them to out-compete any worker, anywhere in the world. 

Today, in Madison, Wisconsin, the President applauded progress across the nation as states undertake reforms that will enable them to better qualify for an award under the Race to the Top.


In the coming weeks, the U.S. Department of Education will issue the final application and guidance for states under the Race to the Top.  This competition will be conducted in two rounds – the first starting this month and the second in June of next year – with winners announced in April and September, 2010.  To be eligible to compete, states must have their second round State Fiscal Stabilization applications approved by the U.S. Department of Education and not have any legal, statutory or regulatory barriers to linking data on student achievement or student growth to teachers and principals for evaluation purposes.

The Race to the Top emphasizes the following reform areas:

  • Designing and implementing rigorous standards and high-quality assessments, by encouraging states to work jointly toward a system of common academic standards that builds toward college and career readiness, and that includes improved assessments designed to measure critical knowledge and higher-order thinking skills.   
  • Attracting and keeping great teachers and leaders in America’s classrooms, by expanding effective support to teachers and principals; reforming and improving teacher preparation; revising teacher evaluation, compensation, and retention policies to encourage and reward effectiveness; and working to ensure that our most talented teachers are placed in the schools and subjects where they are needed the most.
  • Supporting data systems that inform decisions and improve instruction, by fully implementing a statewide longitudinal data system, assessing and using data to drive instruction, and making data more accessible to key stakeholders.
  • Using innovation and effective approaches to turn-around struggling schools, by asking states to prioritize and transform persistently low-performing schools.
  • Demonstrating and sustaining education reform, by promoting collaborations between business leaders, educators, and other stakeholders to raise student achievement and close achievement gaps, and by expanding support for high-performing public charter schools, reinvigorating math and science education, and promoting other conditions favorable to innovation and reform.


In July, the U.S. Department of Education issued a notice of proposed priorities under the Race to the Top, and has received more than 3,700 comments from approximately 1,200 respondents on the various components of the program, including comments from 9 Governors, 20 State Education Officials, and over 200 education associations and organizations.  All comments to the Race to the Top are available on

States and communities across the nation have recently undertaken efforts designed to promote education reforms that are consistent with the principles reflected under the Race to the Top. 

Missouri became the 48th state, along with the District of Columbia, to join a national partnership led by the National Governors Association and the Chief State School Officers to develop a common core of new, rigorous college and career-ready standards in reading and math.

California recently enacted legislation to enable student achievement data to be linked to teacher and principal performance.  Indiana now permits the use of student performance data for teacher evaluation and Wisconsin, with the support of the state teachers union, has recently introduced and is considering legislation to do the same.  New York is also considering similar legislation.

Illinois, Louisiana, and Tennessee have all recently altered laws or policies affecting public charter schools to enable their expansion and success.  Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Ohio and Rhode Island have recently advanced policies to preserve and strengthen public charter schools.  Similar efforts are being considered in California, Idaho, New York, Massachusetts, Michigan and North Carolina. 

Delaware has recently developed a new system of teacher evaluation which incorporates student achievement and sets classroom goals for teachers evaluated through various measures of student learning and growth. The system allows teachers, principals, and school administrators to engage in a process focused on improving teacher practice and increasing student success. 

Austin, TX has developed an innovative approach to performance-based compensation and career advancement for teachers that rewards successful teachers who improve the achievement and growth of their students and who take on additional roles and responsibilities, such as mentoring new teachers.

Educators and city leaders in Jefferson County, CO have collaborated to develop an alternate compensation system for teachers, focused on student learning, teacher learning and teacher leadership.  The proposed system would include multiple measures of student learning and growth gathered from the state’s reading and math assessments, as well as incorporate incentives and goals for teams of teachers and a restructuring of the school day and possibly the school year. 

New Haven, CT recently ratified a new four-year contract for their teachers, including a new teacher evaluation system that considers student learning gains in the assessment of teacher performance and that identifies and provides interventions for struggling teachers through a peer-assistance and review program . To promote innovation, New Haven will promote a new process for changing traditional conditions in schools – enabling reforms such as expanding the school day – and will facilitate the conversion of underperforming schools into charter schools, where the school principal will select and build his or her instructional team.