Grant Awards

$100 Billion Invested and Only One USDOE Validated Practice

I was curious how much money had been invested in TRIO programs by the federal government since the 1960s. I found a table on the Internet, total is about $16 billion through FY10 and they still don't have any validated best practices by external evaluation agencies. Add to this all the money that has been spent on GEAR UP, Adult Education, Title III, Title IV, etc. Since some of those programs were created by the original Higher Education Act, the total by all of them together probably exceeds $100 billion. Maybe a lot more. And only one validated postsecondary practice by USDOE (Supplemental Instruction).

Millions of students are served every year by these federal programs. Many students benefit from the services. However, the USDOE does not have a mechanism to identify why they work. Or what particular policies, specific activities, and the like make the differernce for higher outcomes. TRIO, Title III, GEAR UP, and other federal programs are not themselves best practices. An individual college makes a selection from a wide variety of policies and activities to craft their own approach to better serving students. Those individual choices and the way that they are implemented could be "best practices." But currently there is no where to find such best practices that have been validated by USDOE.

USDOE used to have the Program Effectiveness Panel (PEP) that evaluated education practices at the secondary and postsecondary level. Only one program at the postsecondary level was validated regarding improved student achievement and graduation rates. PEP was eliminagted in the mid 1990s due to budget cuts imposed by the administration of President Clinton.

Every year the U.S. Department of Education awards close to $2 billion for grants to colleges to support high student achievement and graduation rates. But there is currently no system for identifying, validating, and disseminating best practices for postsecondary education. Every year colleges are forced to reinvent the wheel regarding education practices to serve those students. This is an enormous waste of the taxpayer's dollars and lower outcomes for students. We need a onestop shop for college administrators to locate validated best practices that they know will work rather than experimenting on their own students to see if something works. If it does not, the students suffer. if it does work, no one else knows about it. This has to stop. If we ever hope to raise the achievement of U.S. college students to be the best in the world, we will have to make ourselves accountable for those federal funds and effectively share best practices with one another. 

USDOE Race to the Top Grant Winners Indicate Major Shift in Federal Policy

To read a colorful online version of the NewsBlast with a larger typeface, visit:

Delaware and Tennessee cross the finish line According to The Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration has "delivered a jolt to U.S. public education" by selecting only two out of 40 applicant states, Delaware and Tennessee, to receive $600 million in Race to the Top funds ($100 million and $500 million, respectively). In selecting the winners, the Department of Education used a complicated scoring system that weighted various factors, from states' willingness to track student and teacher performance and adopt uniform standards to an openness regarding turning around or closing their worst schools. Delaware garnered 454 out of a possible 500 points, while Tennessee accrued 444. The District of Columbia, which came in last among the 16 finalists, received 402 points. Other finalists had been Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. Education experts and administration officials say two factors set apart the winning states' plans: their coherence, and their likelihood of implementation. All local unions in Delaware backed their state's bid, while 93 percent lent support in Tennessee. The administration still has $3.4 billion to award in a second round, with that announcement expected in late September .

What does this mean? Certainly no more business as usual with federal grant applications. Amopng the many lessons is the federal government requires nearly universal involvement by stakeholders throughout the state and at all levels. Watch the national press and the educational press such as the Chronicle of Higher Education for analysis. This was a massive wakeup call.