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Letter to The Honorable Arne Duncan

Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown, together with the entire Massachusetts Congressional Delegation today wrote to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan urging him to consider Massachusetts' strong commitment to high educational standards when reviewing the state's Phase 2 application to the Race to the Top fund.

The Race to the Top competition challenges states to positively reform their education systems rewarding them from an overall budget of $4.35 billion in critically needed education money. Race to the Top awards go to States that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform. Race to the Top winners help trail-blaze effective reforms and provide examples for states and local school districts throughout the country to follow.

Massachusetts has the highest educational standards in the country and had a strong application for Phase 1 of this funding, moving onto the second round of consideration. Despite those high standards the state's Phase 1 application was docked 15 points because of the its refusal to accept anything lower than the high standards that have been set for our students here in Massachusetts and ultimately did not receive funding in the first round. The Commonwealth has now applied for consideration for Phase 2 funding.

"It's nuts to think that an award to recognize excellence would penalize Massachusetts for having some of the highest educational standards in the country. Massachusetts is setting a national example of how best to close achievement gaps and give every student receives a world-class public education, and that's what the mission of Race to the Top is all about," said Senator Kerry. "I strongly urge Secretary Duncan to take our unique circumstances into consideration as he reviews Massachusetts' application."

"I'm pleased to join this bipartisan effort to ensure that Massachusetts is recognized and not punished for its academic excellence. Race to the Top will play an important role in continuing our state's successful effort to provide a quality education for our youth," said Senator Brown.

"Massachusetts should be commended for having the highest educational standards in the country," Rep. Jim McGovern said. "It would not be appropriate for the state to agree to sacrifice those standards. I'm hopeful that the Department of Education will carefully and thoughtfully review the application."

"There are few issues as vital to our economic future as developing a trained and educated workforce, and Massachusetts is leading the way in educational innovation and excellence," said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. "I join my colleagues in strongly urging the Obama administration to support our state's leadership in education by granting our great Commonwealth these critical Race to the Top funds. There is no doubt Massachusetts will ensure a significant return on the investment!"

The entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation also sent a letter to Secretary Duncan today urging their overall support of Massachusetts' Phase 2 application.

The text of the letter is as follows:

June 1, 2010

The Honorable Arne Duncan

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Secretary Duncan:

We are writing to request your consideration of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' commitment to high educational standards when you are reviewing its Race to the Top Phase 2 application.

As you know Massachusetts has the highest educational standards in the country. That is why we were disturbed to learn that Massachusetts' Race to the Top Phase 1 application was docked 15 points because of the Commonwealth's refusal to accept anything lower than the high standards we have set for our students.

In the Race to the Top Phase 1 and Phase 2 application states are asked to accept a set of national standards to be set by the Department of Education. This is an admirable goal and we applaud the efforts of the administration to try and lift many failing states and encourage them to meet higher standards. Given that Massachusetts has the nation's highest education standards we are concerned that future national standards may not be as strict. Without having that information it would be inappropriate for the Commonwealth to accept anything less than the high bar it has set for our students' achievement. In the absence of language clearly stating that these national standards would be equal to or higher than what Massachusetts has set for itself, the Commonwealth is unfortunately forced to decline accepting these standards.

President Obama himself has made frequent references to Massachusetts as a national model. In an education policy speech last year he said, "I'm calling on states that are setting their standards far below where they ought to be to stop low-balling expectations for our kids. The solution to low test scores is not lowering standards -- it's tougher, clearer standards. Standards like those in Massachusetts, where 8th graders…are now tying for first -- first in the whole world in science…more states need to do the same."

As the Massachusetts congressional delegation we are proud of the high achievement benchmarks we have set for our children and hope that the rest of the country will follow. We respectfully ask that you take these unique circumstances in consideration as you and your staff review Massachusetts' application for Race to the Top Phase 2 funding. We hope that the Commonwealth will not be penalized for being a leader educational excellence.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Senator John Kerry
Senator Scott Brown
Congressman Ed Markey
Congressman John Olver
Congressman Richard Neal
Congressman James McGovern
Congressman Barney Frank
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas
Congressman John Tierney
Congressman Michael Capuano
Congressman Stephen Lynch
Congressman William Delahunt


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