Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Dr. David Brain Robertson


Dr. David C. Kimball


Dr. E. Terrence Jones

Dr. Kathleen Sullivan Brown


The purpose of this study is to trace federal involvement in public K-12 education policy and to determine its effectiveness. Specifically, I present a historical analysis of federal education policy leading to the passage of Race to the Top (RTTT) in 2009. My goal is to show that, although the federal government has grown more involved in education policy, especially from the late 1980s (following the 1983 publication of A Nation At Risk that showed the failings of the nation’s schools) until present, actually students in the K-12 public education system have not progressed as the federal government had hoped. The measurement of progress, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), has not been met in many states as set forth in the legislation No Child Left Behind (NCLB), passed by the U.S. Congress in 2001 and signed by President George W. Bush in 2002, that set a goal of all students reaching proficiency or advanced in reading and mathematics by 2014. Because of the unrealistic expectations and no additional funding to reach the set goal, many scholars called the law an unfunded mandate and most educators grew weary of trying to meet the goal. As a result of the unfavorable education climate created by NCLB, the U.S. Congress offered relief in the form of RTTT, a grants reward program, passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into legislation by President Barack Obama in 2009. That program offered $4.35 billion to states whose applications were accepted over other states applications in order to provide funding for creative educational programming within their borders. But, my study shows that the additional funding helped improve AYP modestly or insignificantly as shown in particular by the District of Columbia, which is highlighted in this study. Finally, my study offers a survey of teachers and administrators in a prominent school district in St. Louis County, Missouri, that confirms that educators are against the notion of relying on an-end-of-the year state assessment to show evidence of student achievement and the notion of tying teachers’ and administrators’ salaries to student test scores, both of which are elements of RTTT.