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Gates Offers Help on “Race” Application —But with Strings

Eight criteria needed to be eligible for funds.


The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which announced in August that it was giving up to $250,000 each to 15 states to help them with their Race to the Top applications, has decided to extend the offer to the other states—but only if they meet certain criteria.

In a memo to Dane Linn, director of the Education Division of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, and Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, the foundation’s education director in its United States Program, Vicky Phillips, says that this change was the result of “much discussion and careful consideration of your feedback.”

Phillips outlines eight criteria the remaining states will need to meet in order to be eligible for funding. These criteria—including no prohibition on linking student assessment with teacher evaluation, having an alternate route to teacher certification, having a system for placing the most effective teachers with the most disadvantaged students, and participating in the Common Core State Standards Initiative—mirror the DOE’s own guidelines for Race to the Top.

Curiously, two of the original 15 states that the Gates Foundation selected for funding themselves don’t fully meet these criteria. New York prohibits using student assessment data in tenure evaluations for teachers, and Texas is one of only three states not to have joined the common standards effort. Phillips says in her memo that these two states “will need to make additional, explicit progress on common standards and removing barriers to linking student and teacher data” if they wish to be eligible for future funding.

But why would states need funding just to fill out some paperwork in the first place? According to the Department of Education’s own estimate, it will take an average of 642 hours to complete the application.