The U.S. Department of Education is expected to release the names of the first round of Race to the Top finalists sometime this week. Race to the Top is a new $4.35 billion competitive grant program that provides states with funding to support innovative reform practices. Since the program was signed into law as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, there has been much anticipation of this announcement, and no shortage of speculation on which states are most likely to come out on top.
Ed Week’s Michele McNeil and Lesli Maxwell think that Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Tennessee are most likely to be awarded grants (in that order).
Thomas Carroll from the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability is favoring Florida, Louisiana, and Tennessee and has high hopes for Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, and Michigan, as well.
Andy Smarick at Flypaper (from the Fordham Foundation), while not naming specific states, is betting that no states with significant rural populations will receive grants. He similarly thinks that states that received assistance from the Gates Foundation and right-to-work states are more likely to get funding in the first round.
These predictions, for the most part, jibe with our assumptions. Florida is often considered on the cutting edge in education, particularly with respect to data usage and availability and teacher assessments. Louisiana also has a strong reform resume with respect to school turnarounds, and Tennessee has been working with value-added models for teachers for years. The predictions do, however, overlook states like California that made major legislative changes to become more competitive in the hopes of winning a Race to the Top grant.
We put together some data on these states and compared them to the other states that aren’t typically mentioned as likely winners. Here are our observations:
- All but Delaware are considered states with relatively large populations – in the top 25 in terms of student enrollment as of 2008.
- With the exception of Louisiana, each of these states typically receives small amounts of federal funds per pupil (less than $1,000 in 2008).
- These states are relatively evenly distributed across the spectrum of per pupil expenditures in the country. Massachusetts spent the most per pupil in 2008 at $12,857 and Tennessee spent the least at $7,129. Seven states and the District of Columbia spent more than Massachusetts and only two states – Utah and Idaho – spent less than Tennessee.
- The states are mostly concentrated in the middle of the pack in terms of school-age children living in poverty. Only Louisiana is in the top ten most impoverished states at 23 percent and Massachusetts is in the bottom ten at 11 percent. Unsurprisingly, this pattern is reflected in the states’ free and reduced price lunch participation rates.
What states are you betting on? Any more interesting patterns you see among the likely winners? See the full dataset here for information on all 50 states and DC.