Tough day for Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, Mayor Pedro Segarra and everyone else in the city who believed the school system had a very strong chance at winning millions in the federal Race to the Top competition.
As I reported in this story, both Hartford and Bridgeport — among 61 finalists for $400 million in grants for education reform — lost out on the possibility of big money. Each sought $30 million over four years in recent proposals to the government.
Bridgeport Superintendent Paul Vallas was stunned. “I’m not only disappointed, I’m really kind of shocked,” he told me. “I’m looking at some of the awardees and I’m baffled.”
Vallas didn’t name names — “I’m not going to criticize other people for being successful,” he said — but the 16 winners include the KIPP DC charter school network ($10 million) and the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative ($40 million), which is a consortium of schools in Kentucky.
Bridgeport’s application received a total score of 190.33, not far behind the 196.33 that the Lindsay Unified School District in California received for its $10 million grant. Hartford’s score was 171.67.
There had been plenty of confidence in Hartford leading up to Tuesday afternoon. After the news, first posted on the U.S. Department of Education website, it was like a needle popped the balloon. The school system eventually released a statement expressing disappointment but highlighting the positive of being a finalist. Kishimoto, through schools spokesman David Medina, declined a phone interview.
A panel of peer reviewers that scored Hartford’s application noted that “there is a compelling vision that drives this project. The focus on children and addressing their singular needs is the focus of the grant.”
But scattered throughout the reviewers’ written comments were bits of criticism that Hartford’s proposal was too vague in some areas, which lowered the score.
“The rationale for addressing achievement gaps is not clear … there are no letters or other indications of support from the local or state teacher associations … Targeted funds for the continual support of the project are not evident … By relying solely on the current state budget allocation, the proposed reform initiative is likely to fall short of necessary funding after the grant period,” they wrote.