Race to the Top
South Dakota will not pursue funds available through the 2nd round of the Race to the Top competition, which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Only two states, Delaware and Tennessee, were awarded grants in the 1st round.
The grant application is based on a point system that awards states that agree to adopt internationally benchmarked standards and assessments, to tie student achievement with teacher evaluation and compensation, and that have strong enabling charter school legislation and broad support among stakeholders.
“While we want to be a team player, we have to consider what’s right for South Dakota,” Oster said. “Before making any of these decisions, we would need to have thoughtful discussions with teachers, administrators, higher education and lawmakers. These are important decisions, and we are not going to rush them.”
One of the major sticking points with Race to the Top is the notion of linking student achievement with decisions about teacher evaluation, compensation and tenure. That discussion would have to include a plan for how to fairly and effectively measure student performance, Oster said. Furthermore, South Dakota does not currently have a longitudinal data system, which is necessary to link student and teacher data.
Another vital component of the Race to the Top application requires states to adopt common standards. The final common core state standards have not been released yet. When they are, Oster said the state Department of Education will want to take time to review the final product and run it by local districts before recommending adoption to the state Board of Education. That process will not be completed in time to meet the Aug. 2 deadline outlined in the application.
The adoption of new standards also would result in the need for new assessments, which are costly and time-consuming to create.
A final strike against South Dakota in the highly competitive grant process is the lack of a law allowing charter schools.
“After considering all these pieces and talking to some of our potential partners, we felt like South Dakota would not meet the qualifications outlined in the grant,” Oster said. “We are open to having these discussions, but we want to do it the right way – in a way that works for South Dakota’s schools, teachers and students.”
Several other states, including Kansas, Indiana and Vermont, have announced that they will not apply in round two of the competition.