Two years into a $500 million grant from the federal government, a report detailing Tennessee's use of Race to the Top funds offers high, if not exemplary, marks to the state.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Education said Thursday that Tennessee was one of three states that had made "considerable progress" since being awarded the grant in 2010. Tennessee was one of the first states to be awarded one of the competitive grants; so far, 12 states have participated.
On Friday, federal education officials will release state-specific reports detailing the state's second year of participation in the $4.35 billion program, which sought to implement innovative education reforms nationwide. Tennessee's achievements in its second year included training more than 10,000 teachers to implement Common Core State Standards for math, implementing a new teacher evaluation system and launching the Achievement School District for low-performing schools.
In a news release, U.S. Secretary of Education Ame Duncan lauded the state's movement toward "21st-century" learning models.
"Tennessee has set a clear path forward on comprehensive education reform that will better support teachers and principals and enable student growth for years to come," Duncan said. "They have overcome challenges and proved what's possible when everyone works together."
The Department of Education report also compliments the states' awarding of competitive grants to 56 of 170 focus schools, operation of two STEM schools, and approval of three additional STEM schools and hubs in the most recent school year. One of the schools opened in Chattanooga last fall.
Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday he thought the state had been fulfilling its obligations to the grant.
"We feel really good about where we are," Haslam said. "We're nearing the end of the Race to the Top funding period, so I think one of the smart things we did was not use that money for recurring obligations and rather used it for projects that will help us move ahead."