State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said Kentucky has significantly strengthened its application for the second round of the federal Race To The Top grants program, but still might not win the $175 million it needs to implement major education reforms.
Holliday said the application improvements — including a plan to make student performance a part of evaluations for teachers and principals — could add between 20 and 30 points to Kentucky's Race score. But even that might not be enough without the 32 additional points charter schools legislation could have provided, he said.
Holliday had hoped the General Assembly would consider charter schools during this week's special session on the budget, but the issue never made it onto the session call. So, Kentucky's Race application — a copy was to be mailed to Washington late Friday with another copy to be hand-delivered on Tuesday — won't include charters.
"Without those charter points, I'm afraid we'll be close, but a little bit out of the money." Holliday said Friday. "I think our score will be in the 440-point range. But I think it will take 450 points or higher to be in the top 10, and I don't think they will fund more than about 10 grants."
Holliday said if Kentucky doesn't win Race dollars, it will have to look elsewhere — including private foundations — for the millions of dollars it needs to implement Senate Bill 1, the wide-ranging education reform package state legislators approved in 2009. The reforms are supposed to be in place by the start of the 2011 school year.
Kentucky had hoped to get $200 million for implementing SB 1 in the first round of Race To The Top last March. But only Tennessee and Delaware won grants, with Kentucky losing points for lacking charter schools legislation and not including student performance in evaluations for teachers and principals. Kentucky could get $175 million in the second round, if its application has been improved enough.
Holliday said Friday that including student performance in teacher and principal evaluations in the application will help. Teacher groups like the Kentucky Education Association and the Jefferson County Teachers Association — traditionally hostile to including student performance in evaluations — now have signed off on the idea, he said.
"They understand the guidelines of Race To The Top and what the U.S. Department of Education and the Obama Administration are pushing, so they definitely did rethink some of their positions," he said.
The new evaluation system for teachers and principals would rate individuals on a four-point scale from ineffective to highly effective. Student performance would be one factor, along with things like classroom observations.
Other states, including some that finished behind Kentucky in the first round, also have improved their applications, he said.
If Kentucky doesn't win funding, Holliday said the state still could use its Race application as a "road map" for applying to private groups, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for funding. The state also might be able to tap into other federal fund sources, he said.