Race to the Top Competition Offers Lessons for
Grantmaker and Government Collaborations
New York, NY — June 2, 2010. The nation's foundation community has provided critical financial and technical support to states applying for the first round of the U.S. Department of Education's "Race to the Top" education reform competition. Yet according to Race to the Top: What Grantmakers Can Learn from the First Round, released today by the Foundation Center, the success of future collaborations will depend on government including grantmakers in the development of new policies and grantmakers being engaged, long-term partners in the process.
Under the auspices of the Foundations for Education Excellence initiative, the Foundation Center conducted interviews in March and April 2010 with foundation staff, education consultants, and government leaders who had guided the first-round application process in nine states. Key findings from these interviews include:
- States faced numerous challenges in completing Race to the Top applications, from the very tight timeframe to developing reform agendas to securing buy-in from key constituencies.
- Grantmakers supported the application process in a variety of ways, from providing funding for consultants to working directly with state leaders to help shape application priorities.
- Despite optimism about the potential impact of Race to the Top, interviewees expressed concerns ranging from the amount of reporting required by winning states to the possibility that the competition could expand the achievement gap between winning and losing states.
"In our new economic reality, it will take grantmakers and government working together to achieve education reform," said Bradford K. Smith, president of the Foundation Center. "This report contains valuable lessons about how to make these collaborations work better in the future."
About the Foundations for Education Excellence Initiative
The Foundations for Education Excellence initiative was launched in September 2009 as a resource to help foundations leverage federal education funds and plan strategies for longer-term impact on education reform. The initiative provides a wide range of services including a web portal with mapping tools to track education reform funding, lists of top funders and recipients, summaries of key foundation-sponsored research on education reform, an events calendar, and links to news stories among other resources; an e-newsletter with policy updates from around the country; and webinars and teleconferences on critical education reform issues.
The Foundations for Education Excellence initiative and this issue brief are made possible through support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
About the Foundation Center
Established in 1956 and today supported by close to 550 foundations, the Foundation Center is the nation's leading authority on philanthropy, connecting nonprofits and the grantmakers supporting them to tools they can use and information they can trust. The Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. and, increasingly, global grantmakers and their grants — a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector. It also operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at every level. Thousands of people visit the Center's web site each day and are served in its five regional library/learning centers and its network of more than 400 funding information centers located in public libraries, community foundations, and educational institutions in every U.S. state and beyond. For more information, please visit foundationcenter.org or call (212) 620-4230.