In 2010, North Carolina won a significant $400 million federal grant to improve public education. Five years later, indications are the grant, with one exception, worked well.
The state’s high school graduation rate has increased by more than 9 points, and the gap between white and minority students earning diplomas narrowed by half, from 14 percentage points to 7. In this “Race to the Top” effort, good numbers crossed the finish line.
The state now must continue its efforts.
What happened? The money was used to expand digital connections, get better training for teachers and principals, improve low-wealth schools. The state was one of 12 that got federal grants.
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Overall student performance has declined, and that’s not good. Another problem is that a plan using financial incentives to lure teachers to low-wealth schools didn’t work, perhaps not surprising in that, despite bonus offerings, it’s tough to get teachers to go to such schools knowing what they’re up against, particularly when the state legislature isn’t showing much support for teachers.
Still, this was a grant put to good use. North Carolina has shown federal officials it can succeed when given an extra opportunity.