State commitments to Race to the Top remain uneven
It was 2009, and Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen had just announced that he was convening an emergency legislative session to enact education reforms to make the state competitive for President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top competition.
At the time, Tennessee ranked near the bottom of all 50 states in student achievement, but Bredesen and a bipartisan group of legislators saw promise in Obama’s commitment to spurring much-needed changes in our nation’s public schools. In exchange for a significant investment of federal funding, states like Tennessee would volunteer to enact new policies to raise standards, increase accountability, build new data systems and lift caps on the number of public charter schools.
Tennessee hit every single one of those policy goals and, as a result, won the first round of the Race to the Top competition, along with Delaware, in the spring of 2010. Over the subsequent eight years, Tennessee would outpace every other state in the nation on student achievement gains as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, followed closely by Washington, D.C., a second-round Race to the Top winner.