WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, as the U.S. Department of Education's much anticipated Race to the Top winners were announced, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce congratulated both Tennessee and Delaware for being the only two states awarded the top prize, $500 million and $100 million respectively.
"This reflects a real emphasis by the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to award only those states who are truly dedicated to reform," said Arthur J. Rothkopf, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Keeping the bar high also provides great incentives for the remaining states to continue implementing legislative reforms in order to be more competitive for the next phase in funding."
Both Tennessee and Delaware have developed state-wide data systems to track individual student achievement. In addition, both states have promised teacher evaluations to be based, in part, on student academic progress as well as more authority by the state to turnaround the lowest performing schools.
In 2007, the U.S. Chamber gave the state of Tennessee 3 F's in its Leaders and Laggards Report Card that measured the education systems of the 50 states plus DC. The report, which was written in partnership with the Center for American Progress and Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, highlighted Tennessee in its Truth in Advertising category for claiming a large percentage of its students were proficient in reading and math compared to their extremely low test scores on the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) exam. In response, Governor Phil Bredesen gave a speech in May 2007 to the Tennessee legislature citing the report as a call to action to improve state academic standards and graduation rates. He also spoke to the Chamber's Institute for a Competitive Workforce discussing his state's disappointing results and promising to take the issue of education reform head on.
"We commend Governor Bredesen for following through on his commitment," Rothkopf said. "In just a short amount of time he elevated the state of Tennessee from being a laggard to showing true dedication to education reform."
"We congratulate the strong political leadership, the hardworking education professionals who are overwhelmingly participating in these efforts, and the reform-minded business communities in both states for this great achievement," Rothkopf concluded. "We look forward to seeing the results and pledge to keep a close eye on their progress."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.
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