A top U.S. Department of Education official warned yesterday that New York and other states risk losing millions of dollars in Race to the Top incentives if they back away from efforts to strengthen teacher job evaluations or other initiatives financed by the federal money.
The admonition came from Ann Whalen, director of the department's implementation support unit, who at a Washington news conference reported on the progress of New York, 10 other states and the District of Columbia in boosting educational achievement through Race to the Top funds.
Whalen acknowledged that New York State had scored significant successes, including the establishment of a training website, engageNY.org. The website is widely used by teachers and principals, both in New York and elsewhere, to get tips on teaching lessons based on the national Common Core academic standards.
But Whalen, in response to a reporter's question, cautioned that recent moves by New York State lawmakers to slow or derail Common Core initiatives, if pursued further, could jeopardize a portion of the state's Race to the Top award.
"In terms of New York or any state making significant change from the scope of the work or the commitments it made to win Race to the Top funds, there could be implications to its grant funds," Whalen said.
She cited Georgia as an example. In September, the federal department withheld $9.9 million from Georgia's Race to the Top grant after concluding that the state had failed to meet its commitments to establish a more rigorous teacher evaluation system linked to pay incentives.
Georgia's Race to the Top award totaled $400 million. New York's grant totaled $697 million, second only to Florida's $700 million.
In Albany, many state lawmakers contend that Washington is pressing for educational changes too fast, and that the pace has alienated teachers and parents alike.
Earlier this month, the Assembly voted overwhelmingly to delay for two years the evaluation of teachers using students' test scores tied to Common Core standards.
The legislation faces an uncertain future in the Senate and strong opposition from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who would have to sign it upon passage.
State Education Department officials, who received an advance look at the latest federal report on their successes and shortcomings, responded Tuesday with a prepared statement, saying they were pleased by federal recognition of their progress.
Those officials added that they would continue to pursue unfulfilled goals of strengthening curricula and assessments in science, social studies and the arts.