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January 15, 2010 Dear Secretary Duncan:
On behalf of Wisconsin’s school children, we are pleased to present to you our application for the US Department of Education’s Race to the Top program. We were honored when President Obama traveled to Wisconsin to announce his vision for this vital program and we are ready to accept the President’s challenge to make education America’s mission.
We are proud of the steps we are taking to align our assessments with high standards, foster effective teachers and leaders, raise student achievement and transform our lowest performing schools. Over the last several months Wisconsin has pushed an educational reform agenda that has brought together over 430 Wisconsin school districts and charter schools together around these central themes.
Race to the Top funding will be instrumental in supporting and accelerating Wisconsin’s education agenda. While Wisconsin has great students, parents, teachers and leaders we recognize that more must be done to ensure that our students are prepared to compete in a global economy. The strong application presented to you today does just that.
Wisconsin’s application contains aggressive goals supported by a comprehensive plan. These goals are targeted at not only high performing schools and students but also address our lowest performers. For example, over the next four years Wisconsin, with your support, is on track to:
- Ensure all of our children are proficient in math and reading.
- Drastically reduce the number of high school dropouts.
- Increase the high school graduation growth rate for Native American, African American and Hispanic students.
- Significantly increase the annual growth in college entrance in 2010 and maintain that level of growth over the next four years.
- Drastically cut our achievement gap.
These goals are supported by a comprehensive plan with a high degree of accountability. Our plan is focused on research proven advancements that tackle many of the challenges facing Wisconsin schools. Advancements such as the following:
- Raising standards — joined consortium with 48 other states to develop and adopt internationally benchmarked standards.
- More useful assessments — changes to our testing process to provide more meaningful information to teachers and parents.
- Expanded data systems — including the ability to tie students to teachers so that we can ultimately learn what works and what doesn’t in education.
- More support for teachers — both for new teachers through mentoring and for other teachers through coaching.
- Increased capacity at the state and regional level to assist with instructional improvement efforts including providing training for coaches and mentors.
- An emphasis on providing additional supports, particularly in early childhood and middle school to high school transition, to ensure that Wisconsin narrows its achievement gap and raises overall achievement.
- Turning around our lowest performing schools — enhancing the capacity for Milwaukee Public Schools and the state to support that effort; contracting out to external organizations with research-proven track records where appropriate.
- Providing wraparound services, complimenting school efforts in specific neighborhoods in Milwaukee to get low income children the supports necessary to succeed within and outside the school yard.
- Investing in STEM — Building off our currently successful Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology efforts to ensure that more students have access to high-quality STEM courses and training.
The agenda that you have before you is one that builds on our great successes yet recognizes that we can and must do more to ensure our children are prepared for success. We appreciate your consideration of Wisconsin’s strong commitment to this mission. We look forward to joining President Obama and you in America’s Race to the Top.
Sincerely, Jim Doyle