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Q&A on Race to the Top

NC State played a key role in securing $400 million in education funding for the state of North Carolina through the federal Race to the Top program.

The state’s grant application to the U.S. Department of Education—which was approved this week—was spearheaded by faculty and staff in the College of Education and the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. State officials praised the Friday Institute’s executive director, Dr. Glenn Kleiman, for coordinating development of the complex application in concert with the governor’s office, the State Board of Education and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

We sat down with Kleiman to find out how the funds will impact North Carolina’s 1.4 million K-12 students.

What are the goals we are trying to reach through this program?

In general, the goals are to improve student achievement, with specific targets for student scores on the National Assessment for Educational progress: increased graduate rates and college attendance, and for reduction of the achievement gaps across groups of students. Another important goal is to improve all of our low performing schools, so that students everywhere in North Carolina have the opportunity for a good education that will lead to college and career readiness. And all of this will require having a great leader for every school and a great teacher for every classroom. The goals are easy to state and can be measured, but are ambitious and therefore challenging to meet.

How do you see the funding from this grant transforming North Carolina schools?

When you look at it, $400 million is not much money when compared to the state’s overall education budget, but because these funds are specifically designated for innovation-focused programs, the grant will play a key role in moving schools forward. It will enable North Carolina to:

  • Put into place new ways to recruit, prepare and support teachers and principals, especially for our hardest-to-staff schools
  • Extend the state’s already successful district and school turnaround initiatives
  • Create a next-generation technology infrastructure to enhance teaching, learning, communication and management in our schools
  • Build a statewide capacity to provide effective professional development, both face-to-face and online, to keep our education workforce up-to-date
  • Provide tools for teachers to help diagnose student learning and personalize instruction
  • Provide a better data system to inform decisions at all levels, from the classroom teachers to the state policymakers

The combination of these things allows us to build capacities that will serve North Carolina well past the four-year period of the grant.

How will North Carolina begin to implement the proposal and what role will the Friday Institute play in the process?

Success will require the engagement and support of all the stakeholders, along with strong leadership. Since we just learned we won the grant on Tuesday, we’ve taken a day to celebrate before the real work begins. The good news is that work is well underway in some of the proposed areas. At NC State, Phil Emer at the Friday Institute has already been planning for the statewide transition to a cloud computer/support services infrastructure. Dr. Bonnie Fusarelli and Dr. Matt Millitelo, from the College of Education, have just launched the Northeast Regional Leadership Academy, which provides a new approach to recruiting, preparing and supporting leaders who will turnaround low performing schools. The NCDPI District and School Transformation Team, led by Dr. Pat Ashley, has recent data showing continued success of their approach. All of these programs and others will be extended through Race to the Top, along with many new initiatives.

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