A Blueprint for Reform
The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
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Fostering Innovation and Excellence

For all students to thrive in the classroom, in college, and in a career, our educational system must continuously develop and embrace the very best practices, policies, and ideas. Innovative practices are constantly emerging to help more students graduate ready for college and a career. We will ask policymakers and educators at all levels to carefully analyze the impact of their policies, practices, and systems on student outcomes. We will provide students and families with increased high-quality public school educational options, and empower them with improved information about the options available to them. And across programs, we will focus less on compliance and more on enabling effective local strategies to flourish.

A New Approach

  • Providing incentives for a Race to the Top among states and districts willing to take on ambitious, comprehensive reforms.
  • Developing, validating, and scaling up promising and proven educational strategies to improve student outcomes.
  • Expanding educational options to increase choice within the public school system through high-performing new schools and meaningful public school choice.

Race to the Top

Modeled after the Race to the Top program authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, our proposal will provide competitive grants to states and school districts to take on ambitious and comprehensive reforms, and to encourage the broad identification, dissemination, adoption, and use of effective policies and practices. State and school district grantees will be required to develop and implement comprehensive plans, in collaboration with other stakeholders, to dramatically improve student outcomes, including focusing on rigorous college- and career-ready standards and high-quality assessments; providing better information to families to help them evaluate and improve their children's schools, and to educators to help them improve their students' learning; supporting effective teachers and school leaders; turning around persistently low-performing schools; and supporting innovative models for reform.

States and school districts that receive grants may spend funds flexibly in a manner aligned with their plans, but states must award at least 50 percent of their grant funds to school districts that participate in the state plan. Grantees will be required to meet specific annual performance targets related to the implementation of their plan and to improving measurable outcomes for students and schools, and will receive continuation funding only if they implement their proposed plans effectively and meet their performance targets. Grantees must invest in rigorous evaluation of their ongoing performance and reform efforts.

Investing in Innovation (i3)

This program builds on the i3 program launched through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and will provide additional competitive grants to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative and evidence-based practices, programs, and strategies that significantly improve student outcomes. The Secretary will use a rigorous, three-tiered evidence framework that directs the highest levels of funding to programs with the strongest evidence, and also provides significant support for promising programs that are willing to undergo rigorous evaluation. Grantees will use funds to scale up practices, strategies, or programs for which there is strong evidence of success in significantly closing achievement gaps between groups of students and in significantly increasing student academic achievement for all groups of students; validate and expand practices, strategies, or programs for which there is moderate evidence of success; or develop and test promising practices, strategies, or programs for which there is potential and some research-based support. Each grantee will be required to conduct or participate in an independent evaluation of its project. Grantees will be required to form partnerships with the private sector to secure matching funds.

Applicants will be required to propose projects that develop or expand innovations in critical areas of education reform. The Secretary may also give preference to applicants that propose to develop or expand innovations around specific pressing needs, such as improving the teaching and learning of STEM subjects, improving early learning outcomes, addressing the learning needs of English Learners and students with disabilities, and serving schools in rural areas. The Secretary will also reserve funds for inducement prizes to drive breakthrough inventions in education or for dramatic and innovative approaches to improving educational outcomes.

Expanding Educational Options

In addition to broad-based comprehensive state and local reforms and the expansion of evidence-based practices and innovations, the Administration's ESEA reauthorization proposal will encourage educational entrepreneurship by expanding competitive grants aimed at increasing the supply of high-quality public educational options available to students.

Supporting Effective Charter Schools. Our proposal will provide competitive grants to states, charter school authorizers, charter management organizations, districts, and nonprofit organizations, to start or expand high-performing public charter schools and other high-performing autonomous public schools, with a priority for applicants proposing to start or expand high-performing public charter schools. Autonomous schools are public schools that, as much or even more than charter schools, have ongoing autonomy over key operational elements, including staffing, budget, schedule, and program. Both charter schools and other autonomous schools funded under this program must be subject to the same accountability systems as traditional public schools, as well as increased accountability for improving student academic achievement.

To ensure that funds are used to start or expand high-performing schools that improve outcomes for all subgroups of students, applicants will be evaluated based on their record of past success in funding, supporting, authorizing, managing, or operating (as relevant) high-performing public charter schools or other high-performing public autonomous schools; their record of cutting off funding to or closing low-performing charter schools or other low-performing autonomous schools; and their commitment to improving the quality of their schools in the future. Grantees will be required to develop plans to appropriately serve all students in charter or other autonomous schools, including English Learners and students with disabilities, and to provide information to ensure students and families are aware of and able to apply to these schools. The Secretary may reserve a portion of funds to improve charter schools' access to facilities or to facilities financing.

To build greater capacity to support and hold schools accountable under this program, grantees at all levels will be allowed to set aside funds to improve their capacity to oversee and support schools funded under this program. Additionally, charter management organizations that commit to work with districts to support the districts in implementing effective strategies in district schools may be eligible for larger grants.

Promoting Public School Choice. Our proposal will continue to provide competitive grants to districts, consortia of districts, and states in partnership with districts to expand high-quality public school educational options for students, especially students in low-performing schools, and ensure that students and families are aware of these options. Grantees will use funds to implement programs that increase high-quality public school options for students, especially students in low-performing schools, through creating or expanding inter- and intradistrict choice programs, theme-based schools, high-quality online learning programs, or academic pathways. Grantees must also carry out activities to provide students, families, and the community with information about how to identify, evaluate, and access high-quality educational options. Priority will be given to interdistrict choice programs and programs that provide comprehensive choices to every student in a district. Priority will also be given to programs that increase diversity in the schools served by the program.

Magnet Schools Assistance Program. Our proposal will continue to provide competitive grants to districts to support magnet schools under a desegregation plan ordered by a federal court, state court, or other authorized state agency or official, or approved by the Secretary. The reauthorized program will expand and improve options for students and increase diversity by placing a greater emphasis on funding whole-school magnet school programs or models that have a record of success in raising student academic achievement and reducing minority group isolation.

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Last Modified: 05/27/2011