Just as 2011 ended, the U.S. Department of Education announced that seven states—Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—will each receive a share of the $200 million Race to the Top Round 3 (RTT3) fund to advance targeted K–12 reforms aimed at improving student achievement.
Illinois is now one of 22 Race to the Top winners across the country. These states serve 65 percent of the nation’s children and 59 percent of students from low-income families. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a December 23, 2011, press release, “Race to the Top has been a pivotal program that has generated more progress in improving our nation’s education system over the last three years than we’ve seen over the last decade. We look forward to partnering with these states to continue this important work.”
Illinois State Board of Education was awarded $42.8 million of the $200 million grant total in the federal Race to the Top program. Illinois plans to distribute about $21 million of the funds directly to local districts that agree to accelerate education reform. All Race to the Top recipients commit to comprehensive statewide reform. In Illinois, that will focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education as well as on closing the achievement gaps.