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Race to the Top Finalists Announced

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 08, 2010 12:45 PM

As discussed in a previous post, the state of California squeezed in a late application to win one  of the President's Race to the Top education grants. The finalists were announced late last week and unfortunately, they did not include the Golden State. The finalists, drawn from a pool of 41 contenders, were: Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee. The winners will be chosen in April and a second round of applications will be accepted in June.

MSNBC reports the funds are a reward for states who have taken initiative in following the Obama Administration's push for school reforms to improve student performance. The areas of focus in school reform include adopting standards and assessments to better prepare students for careers and college; getting high-quality teachers into classroom; turning around low-performing schools; and creating data systems to track performance. States also were required to permit linking student performance data to teacher evaluations.

The state applications were read and scored by panels of five peer reviewers. Those with the highest average scores were selected to visit Washington later this month to present their proposals. The Department of Education is setting what it calls a "high bar" in the completion. It expects only 10 to 20 states total to be awarded grant money.  

The money for the Race to the Top grants comes from the economic stimulus package which included $100 billion for schools. Much of that has gone toward preventing teacher layoffs and addressing other budget concerns, but the $4.35 billion Race to the Top funds are targeted specifically at school reform.

Although critics say that a time of budget crisis for most states is not the time to spend money on reform, supporters of the program say the real cost will come if states wait any longer to fix struggling schools. "You can always say now is not the right time for change," Amy Wilkins, vice president for government affairs and communications at The Education Trust, told MSNBC. "But the fact is that improving education is sort of a linchpin in improving the economic health of the country. So we have to do this now."

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