What Hawaii Says It'll Do To Win Race To The Top

Hawaii Department of Education

Five of Hawaii's education leaders are in Washington, D.C. today to present their best case for the state's proposed education reforms, in hopes of earning $75 million in Race to the Top funds.

To be considered for the competitive education grant, states must demonstrate a collaborative effort driving "bold" system reform. This is the second round of applications that the U.S. Department of Education has considered for the Obama administration's $4.35 billion program to promote education reforms nationwide. Hawaii failed to make the cut in the first round, but two weeks ago was named among 19 finalists for the second round, thanks to a revised application.

If Hawaii is among the possible 10-15 winners, up to $75 million would be distributed to the state's education department over the next four years and would be earmarked for implementing education reform proposals outlined in its application. A huge effort has gone into the application, which if successful would bring in about 1 percent more revenue for the school system annually.

The program appears to be driving education reform nationally and in Hawaii. But it's not without its own controversies — not the least of which is the lingering question about whether the reforms it encourages will have positive results. The National Education Association, one of the most prominent national teachers unions, has denounced the program for, among other things, "an unhealthy focus on standardized tests as the primary evidence of student success."

Civil Beat decided to take a closer look at Race to the Top — both what it says it entails, and what Hawaii is committing itself for in the event it wins the $75 million it seeks.

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