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Race to the top, one year later

August 23, 2011

It will be one year tomorrow since Rhode Island won a $75 million Race to the Top Grant from the federal government. So how is the state spending the money?

First, it is worth noting that it took until April to get all the final approvals in place. Since that time, the state has spent about $1.6 million dollars, with that number expected to grow to $3.5 million by the end of September.

Just over $1 million is going toward salaries and benefits for 15 full-time state employees. The Rhode Island Department of Education is spending another $592,000 on project management and $423,000 on a model for new teacher evaluations.

Local school districts are in line to receive half of the total $75 million grant for things like training on the new teacher evaluations and a deep study of curricula. So far, districts have yet to receive any actual money, but the state is in the process of reimbursing them for trainings held over the summer. By the end of next month state officials say they will have paid out nearly $450,000 to local districts, or just under 13% of the total Race to the Top spending.

State officials say they expect payments to districts to increase as schools return to session in the coming weeks and months. A large portion of the money districts will receive will cover the cost of paying teachers and administrators to work extra hours and paying substitutes to cover for teachers if they need to attend meetings during the school day.

A spokesperson from the State Department of Education explains it this way: Rhode Island has created a single state-wide program that all districts have pledged to participate in. The funding for local districts is to cover the cost of that participation, while the state spending will go toward bringing in experts to work with teachers, principals and district leaders on everything from new data systems to forming new curricula.

State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist says thousands of teachers and principals have received training this summer on new teacher evaluations and curricululm standards. The state is also preparing to roll out a new teacher induction program and a study of how to align curricula to new national standards known as the Common Core.

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