Race to Top Offers Lessons for Grantmaker-Government Collaborations, Brief Finds

Although the nation's foundation community has provided critical financial and technical support to states applying for the first round of Race to the Top funds, the success of future collaborations will depend on government including grantmakers in the development of new policies and grantmakers being engaged, long-term partners in the process, a new issue brief from the Foundation Center finds.

Based on interviews conducted in March and April with foundation staff, education consultants, and government leaders who guided the first-round application process in nine states, the brief, Race to the Top: What Grantmakers Can Learn from the First Round (8 pages, PDF), found that while grantmakers supported the application process in a variety of ways, states faced numerous challenges in completing Race to the Top applications, from the tight timeframe to developing reform agendas to securing buy-in from key constituencies. And while they were optimistic about the potential impact of Race to the Top, interviewees expressed a number of concerns about the effort, from the amount of reporting required by winning states to the possibility that the competition could expand the achievement gap between winning and losing states.

The brief was issued as part of the Foundations for Education Excellence initiative, an effort launched last year to help foundations leverage federal education funds and plan strategies for longer-term impact on education reform. Both the initiative and the brief are funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

"In our new economic reality, it will take grantmakers and government working together to achieve education reform," said Foundation Center president Bradford K. Smith. "This report contains valuable lessons about how to make these collaborations work better in the future."