Education Commissioner Deborah Gist told a group of civic leaders yesterday at a meeting attended by N4N that it is "highly unlikely" that Rhode Island will win a multi-million dollar infusion from the federal government in the first round of President Obama's Race to the Top grant-making.
The comments, made before community leadership development organization Leadership Rhode Island, marks a significant shift in tone for Gist, who has been relentlessly optimistic about the state's application for more than $100 million in federal aid to push through sweeping reform.
The Race to the Top program uses the carrot of federal cash - over $4 billion total - to encourage the development of charter schools and aggressive efforts to ramp up teacher quality, among other things.
Rhode Island was one of 16 finalists for a first round of awards, to be announced as soon as next week. Only a handful of states are expected to win. The money would provide a significant boost to the state's reform efforts. But Gist says the state will move ahead with reform, even if the cash doesn't come through. "We won't be discouraged," she said, "and we won't slow down."
Why the "highly unlikely" comment? "It's just sort of managing expectations," she said, "including my own." If the state does not win an award this time, it can apply for a second round of funding.