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Rhode Island Wins Race to the Top Funding in Second Phase

The U.S. Department of Education today announced that the State of Rhode Island was one of 10 states to be selected in Phase II of Race to the Top, the competitive $4.35 billion federal program to reward and encourage innovative states that are making significant progress with their education reform efforts. The state applied for $75 million over four years to implement its strategic plan Transforming Education in Rhode Island, to support educators, and to improve student achievement. Rhode Island was one of 19 finalists out of 36 applicants.

Governor Donald L. Carcieri said he is pleased that the U.S. Department of Education has recognized the strong foundation Rhode Island has built to drive meaningful education reform and the collaborative energy that is facilitating the state’s successful effort.

“I am very proud of Rhode Island’s winning application, and extend my thanks to Commissioner Deborah Gist, to the Department of Education staff, to Speaker Gordon Fox, to Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, and to community stakeholders who made this successful outcome possible. Our Phase 2 application was strengthened significantly by a broader base of support among school districts and stakeholders, new initiatives adopted by the General Assembly, and by new policies that reflect our steadfast commitment to reform and school improvement,” said Governor Carcieri. “Our submission represented a culmination of over seven years of dedicated work to raise our standards, incorporate new assessments, strengthen graduation requirements, develop a new system for evaluating educators, and approach our reform work in a more strategic manner. The funding we receive will help us accelerate our efforts to provide our students with the highest quality education, one that will prepare them well for success in life and in the working world.”

"This is fantastic news for our state, our schools and, most importantly, our children," said Congressman James Langevin. "I congratulate Commissioner Gist, the Rhode Island Department of Education and all of the dedicated teachers, administrators, parents and students who contributed to this accomplishment. I can't wait to follow the progress in our schools as this program gets off the ground."

“This is fantastic news for the education reform movement and, most importantly, for the children of our state,” said Speak Gordon Fox. “This federal investment will lay the groundwork for an education renaissance and will provide new tools for our dedicated teachers whose input greatly enhanced our state’s application. I was proud to be part of the team that traveled to Washington to support Rhode Island’s case, and even more proud of the passage of significant legislation this session which helped to strengthen the application. The enactment of a school funding formula, spearheaded in the House by Finance Committee Chairman Steven Costantino, and the lifting of the cap on charter schools, sponsored by Rep. Douglas Gablinske, truly made a difference.”

President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed said, “Rhode Island’s success in securing federal Race to the Top funds is a result of a truly collaborative effort in which government leaders and educators worked together with a common purpose of improving Rhode Island’s educational systems. From the Senate’s perspective, in addition to the passage of significant legislation that strengthened the state’s application, I was pleased to join Governor Carcieri, Speaker Fox, Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Hanna Gallo, Commissioner Gist, Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil Steinberg and education officials in traveling to Washington in a strong show of our unified support. I particularly want to recognize the leadership of Rhode Island’s teachers, who have been true partners in this process. Their willingness to challenge the status quo has helped the state secure funds that will move Rhode Island towards excellence in education.”

“Today the U.S. Department of Education and educators around the nation have recognized that Rhode Islanders have made transforming education our highest priority,” said Robert G. Flanders, Jr., Esq., Chairman of the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education. “On behalf of the Board of Regents, we are grateful to the Governor and to our partners in the General Assembly for their unwavering support, and we are thankful to have Commissioner Gist at the helm as we embark on our Race to the Top. We will invest these dollars wisely over the next four years to build a world-class education system that will improve the lives of Rhode Islanders for years to come.”

“Today is a landmark day for the students, educators, and families of Rhode Island,” said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “We are deeply honored to be selected as a winner of Race to the Top, and we will work with our partners from across the state to raise student achievement, close achievement gaps, and build strong supports for all of our educators. I have been honored to work with so many Rhode Islanders who are committed to transforming our schools, and I know that Race to the Top has inspired all of us to work together in the best interest of our students. Today, we have been recognized for our ambitious goals and for our excellent plan. Now it is time to put our plan into action. I truly believe that someday our schools will be the best in the nation and the envy of the world.”

Rhode Island will use Race to the Top funds for implementing world-class standards and assessments, developing user-friendly data systems to improve instruction, providing mentoring and training for all teachers and school leaders, advancing educator evaluation systems to improve teacher effectiveness, and offering systems of support for the lowest-achieving schools.

The specific proposals included in the Rhode Island Race to the Top application included:

training for educators regarding new world-class standards; training in the use of data to improve instruction; support for a new system that will track education data over multiple years; information for teachers and families on student growth and achievement at the classroom, school, and district levels; data and other support for an educator-evaluation system that we will design in partnership with educators; support toward developing new models of teacher compensation; stronger induction programs for new teachers and school leaders; training in the management of human resources; development of a deeper applicant pool for subjects that are hard to staff; increased supports for principals and teacher leaders; and partnerships with professional organizations that have proven records of success.

At least half of the grant would flow directly to participating districts, which include 33 of the 36 school districts, all charter schools, and all state-operated schools.

Governor Donald L. Carcieri led a delegation to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, August 10, when Rhode Island’s team met with U.S. Department of Education interviewers and answered questions about the state application. The Rhode Island team included: Governor Carcieri, Commissioner Deborah A. Gist, Chief Academic Officer of the Providence Public Schools Sharon Contreras, RI Department of Education (RIDE) Deputy Commissioner David V. Abbott, and RIDE’s Chief of Educator Excellence and Instructional Effectiveness Mary Ann Snider, and, as alternate, Chief Transformation Officer Jennifer Smith.

The Rhode Island team was accompanied by a delegation of leaders from government, education, business labor and the non-profit community including: House Speaker Gordon Fox; Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed; Representative Douglas Gablinske, Chair, Subcommittee on Education; Senator Hanna Gallo, Chairwoman, Committee on Education; Providence Mayor David Cicilline; Cumberland Mayor Daniel McKee; Steve Smith, President, Providence Teachers’ Union; Judy Jenkins, Co-President, Foster NEA; Jean Harnois , President, RI Association of School Committees; Julie Nora, President, RI League of Charter Schools; Angus Davis, Board of Regents; Neil Steinberg, President & CEO, Rhode Island Foundation; Staff Facilitator, Jennifer Smith, Rhode Island Department of Education.

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