Key Policy Letters Signed by the Education Secretary or Deputy Secretary
August 31, 2009
Archived Information

August 31, 2009

Dear Colleagues:

The U.S. Department of Education is seeking recommendations for reviewers for the $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund competitive grant program.  This program presents an unprecedented opportunity to support far-reaching improvement in schools across the country.  Therefore, we hope to assemble panels of our nation's most distinguished educators, policymakers, and scholars to participate in the review process for this ambitious reform initiative.  I am writing to ask for your help in identifying candidates for consideration. 

Advancing school reform is the key to America's long-term prosperity, and this is an important moment because we have the resources in the Race to the Top Fund to dramatically improve our nation's schools.  This historic investment in school reform will reward and provide incentives for states that have created the conditions for transformational change, set ambitious goals around improving student outcomes, and developed clear and comprehensive plans to reach those goals.  The Race to the Top Fund focuses on four key areas of education reform:

  • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and careers;
  • Recruiting, developing, retaining, and rewarding effective teachers and principals;
  • Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals on how they can improve their practices; and
  • Turning around our lowest-performing schools.

Please let us know as soon as possible and no later than September 30, 2009, if you and/or qualified individuals you recommend would be interested in serving on a panel to review Race to the Top Fund applications.  I encourage you to share this letter with anyone you feel is qualified.  For more information about the review process or about applying to be on a panel, please read on.

Thank you so much.

  Arne Duncan

Qualifications of Reviewers

The Race to the Top team is seeking 50 to 80 individuals that represent wide ranges of experience to serve on peer review panels.  The U.S. Department of Education (Department) is seeking individuals with expertise in some, if not all, of the following areas to serve as reviewers of applications for the Race to the Top Fund:

  • Education Policy
    • Policy implementation experience and/or legal expertise
  • Education Reform
    • Deep understanding of teaching and learning, specifically K-12
    • Broad understanding of each of the four education reform areas (standards and assessments, teachers and school leaders, data systems, school turnaround), and specific expertise in at least one of these areas
    • Demonstrated experience in implementing or supporting reforms that led to improved student outcomes
    • Deep understanding of using data to inform continuous improvement at the classroom, school, district, and/or state levels
    • Understanding of and experience with implementing student-achievement-focused reform plans at scale in order to know what approaches have the greatest likelihood of success at the school, district, and state levels
  • Capacity and Scale
    • Knowledge of effective operational and organizational/management infrastructures at state and district levels (e.g., people, processes, accountability structures, technology systems, program and grant management)
    • Ability to assess the effectiveness of leadership teams and key contributors
    • Knowledge of or experience with relationships between states and districts, as well as successful engagement of diverse stakeholders at each level
  • Application Review and Evaluation
    • Experience participating in (as an evaluator) or managing state, federal, and/or philanthropic grant reviews (preferably with experience in applying scoring rubrics and specific criteria to this process)
    • Experience providing thoughtful, objective, constructive, and timely oral and written feedback to applicants and/or organizations on successes and opportunities for improvement

Reviewers will work individually and on a panel with other reviewers to evaluate and score applications.  Panels will be unbiased and balanced according to areas of reviewers' expertise.  The Race to the Top competition will have two phases, and reviewers may participate in one or both phases.  Reviews are anticipated to take place between January 2010 and March 2010 for Phase 1, and between June 2010 and September 2010 for Phase 2.  Reviewers will participate in a total of approximately 6-12 days of review, some of which may be in Washington, DC, and some of which will be done remotely.  Reviewers will receive an honorarium for their time.

Application Process

We encourage you to forward this letter to those you feel are qualified. You may send us a list of people you recommend, and of course you may submit your own application.  To apply, please submit a cover letter and curriculum vitae to  For those you recommend, please include their name, e-mail address, phone number, organization, and title, and we will contact them.  We strongly encourage you to submit your applications and recommendations as soon as possible; all applications must be submitted by September 30, 2009.

Conflict of Interest

Please be aware that any applicant's selection as a peer reviewer for the Race to the Top Fund competition will include a review for possible, apparent, and/or actual conflicts of interest.  All applicants will be required to complete a conflict of interest questionnaire.  The questionnaire generally seeks to obtain information about the applicant’s professional experience(s), including any financial interest that the applicant may have in any state's Race to the Top Fund application.  If a potential conflict of interest is identified, the Department will consider whether the applicant can participate as a peer reviewer in full compliance with all applicable Department policies and procedures.  In this way, the Department is able to ensure the objective and efficient management and administration of the Race to the Top Fund program, which ultimately ensures the integrity of the Department's functions and the public's confidence in that integrity.

Last Modified: 09/02/2009