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Update: 15 states named Race To The Top finalists (let the tea-leaf reading begin)

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on March 4, 2010 at 10:16 am |
March 4, 2010 1:46 pm

Here’s a link to Education Week’s article on U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s selection of finalists for the first round of Race To The Top competition.

Washington state did not enter the first round of the competition for a share of $4.35 billion in special stimulus money to reward school reform efforts. Washington will wait until round two this summer and Gov. Chris Gregoire hopes a bill pending before the Legislature will boost the state’s chances.

A few interesting note about the finalists: While allowing charter schools is one of the key criteria, states without charters and states with weak charter laws made the cut. Washington does not allow charter schools.

Also, Gregoire said last week that Duncan has told states that they must bring their education unions along so they don’t hinder the reforms. Gregoire cites that need to defend critics who say the state bill was weakened to get Washington Education Association buy in. And she held up Pennsylvania as a state that is trying to move ahead without union support.

Pennsylvania is a finalist and those handicapping the competition expect it to be among the winners in round one.

Here’s a paragraph from the Education Week story:

We’ll have more analysis on the winners—and losers—later, but our first take on the list of finalists is that many of them are Southern, right-to-work states. New York is a surprise because many argue its student-teacher data law is weak, and its attempt to loosen restrictions on charters failed. Kentucky made the list, but has no charter law. Also, Colorado is the only Western state to make the cut.

Update: Gregoire responds to finalists list… “As I’ve said all along, the competition for the Race To The Top dollars will be extremely competitive. Today’s announcement of 15 states plus the District of Columbia demonstrates the many different approaches states can take to compete for these grant dollars.

“The next step for the finalists, to give personal presentations to the Department of Education, is important to note. The Department has said that applicants must be able to look the selection committee in the eye and demonstrate that their proposals can be implemented and that teachers, principals and local districts are all on the same page.

“Washington’s competitiveness will start with passage and implementation of our education reform legislation. The bill has broad support, including principals and the teachers in the classroom. Ultimately, I believe that regardless of whether we win the Race To The Top competition, our success will be measured if we are able to implement real reform in our schools.”

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