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19 Race to the Top Finalists Propose Statewide Education Reforms

The United States Department of Education (ED) Tuesday announced finalists in the second phase of the Race to the Top competition.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia were named finalists out of 36 applicants through a peer review process. State finalists included included Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.

It's unknown at this point how many of these finalists will eventually be selected as winners, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said today, "Just as in the first round, we're going to set a very high bar because we know that real and meaningful change will only come from doing hard work and setting high expectations."

Only two states were named as winners in the first phase of the competition, leaving about $3.4 billion--more than 78 percent of the total (unaugmented) pool--to be distributed still. The Obama administration has requested an additional $1.35 billion for Race to the Top in its fiscal year 2011 budget proposal, a request that has met with a less than enthusiastic reception by some education supporters, including the National Education Association, which earlier this month gave the program a symbolic vote of "no confidence," an act that followed just four months after NEA President Dennis Van Roekel spoke before Congress and recommended redirecting the $1.35 billion 2011 request to other areas of education pending an evaluation of the first phase of the competition and a clarification of guidelines.

Race to the Top is focused on driving changes in public schooling through competitive grants to states that submit "blueprints for reform" to the federal government with an eye toward "adopting rigorous standards, elevating the teaching profession to reward excellence, turning around low-performing schools, and building better data systems to inform reform," as the department phrased it in a statement released to the press today.

In a speech Tuesday Duncan characterized those the finalists as having the "boldest plans" among all the applicants. Fourteen of them were finalists in the first phase of the program.

Finalists in phase 2 will be interviewed further in early August before a final determination is made of who will receive Race to the Top funds. The final announcement is still expected in September.

A complete list of phase 2 Race to the Top finalists and their applications and supporting documents can be found here. Further information about the program in general can be found on ED's site here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrnagel/ .