GAO Releases Most Recent Report on The Recovery Act: Department of Educationís Race to The Top
Across the United States, to date, the Department of the Treasury has paid out over $269 billion in Recovery Act funds for use in states and localities. Of that amount, $10 billion has been paid out since the beginning of fiscal year 2013 (October 1, 2012). The Department of Education (Education) created Race to The Top (RTT) under the Recovery Act to provide incentives for states to reform K-12 education in areas such as improving the lowest performing schools and developing effective teachers and leaders. In 2010, Education awarded 12 states nearly $4 billion in RTT grant funds to spend over 4 years. The latest GAO report on the uses of Recovery Act funds focuses on funding for Educationís RTT program. See full report GAO-13-777.
|Source: GAO analysis of data from CBO, Federal Funds Information for States, and Recovery.gov.|
The majority of the federal outlays—53.5 percent—has been provided through the increased Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) and the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) administered by the Department of Education.
The following review on funding for RTT programs responds to a mandate for GAO under the Recovery Act to report on the uses of and accountability for Recovery Act funds in selected states and localities.
Six of 12 States Fully Implemented Their Evaluation Systems by the 2012-2013 School Year
By school year 2012-13, 6 of 12 RTT states fully implemented their evaluation systems (i.e., for all teachers and principals in all RTT districts). However, their success in fully implementing by the date targeted in their RTT applications varied. Three of these states met their target date while three did not for various reasons, such as needing more time to develop student academic growth measures. The six states that did not fully implement either piloted or partially implemented. The scope of pilots varied. One state piloted to about 14 percent of teachers and principals while another piloted to about 30 percent of teachers. State or district officials in four of the six states expressed some concerns about their readiness for full implementation.
Most RTT States Cited Challenges with Developing and Using Certain Evaluation Measures, Addressing Teacher Concerns, and Building Capacity and Sustainability
Officials in most RTT states cited challenges related to developing and using evaluation measures, addressing teacher concerns, and building capacity and sustainability. State officials said it was difficult to design and implement rigorous student learning objectivesóan alternate measure of student academic growth. In 6 states, officials said they had difficulty ensuring that principals conducted evaluations consistently. Officials in 11 states said teacher concerns about the scale of change, such as the use of student academic growth data and consequences attached to evaluations, challenged state efforts. State and district officials also discussed capacity challenges, such as too few staff or limited staff expertise and prioritizing evaluation reform amid multiple educational initiatives. Officials in 10 states had concerns about sustaining their evaluation systems.
Education Supports RTT State Implementation Efforts Through Monitoring and Technical Assistance
Education helps RTT states meet their goals for teacher and principal evaluation systems through a new monitoring process and through technical assistance. Education officials said the RTT monitoring process differs from other monitoring efforts in the frequency of contact with the states and the emphasis on continuous improvement and quality of RTT reforms. Officials from 8 of the 12 RTT states expressed generally positive views about Educationís monitoring. When states have not demonstrated adequate progress, Education has taken corrective action. For example, Education designated two states as high-risk, which resulted in additional monitoring. Education provides technical assistance through a contractor; officials from 10 RTT states told us assistance related to evaluation systems was generally helpful. Education officials said they plan to provide RTT and nongrantee states with more information to support their efforts.