The states, selected from 16 finalists, received the grants in the
first round of the $4.35 billion federal competition designed to
encourage the use of innovative educational programs.
will get $500 million, and Delaware will receive $100 million, the
Delaware and Tennessee "have demonstrated the courage, capacity
and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve
outcomes for students," Secretary Arne Duncan said in a news
The winners beat out Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida,
Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York,
North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.
Federal officials will collect a second round of applications for
the highly selective program in June. The states that were not
picked this time can reapply for grants then.
Officials said Georgia and Florida were third and fourth in the
rankings for the grants, which means they may have an advantage over
other states for the second round of grants. Still, several of the
finalists are already vowing to reapply for the money.
"We were honored to be one of only 16 finalists for this highly
competitive grant, and we will immediately begin working on our
application for the next round of funding," said Deborah A. Gist,
commissioner of elementary and secondary education in Rhode Island.
Observers say the winners took to heart the education reforms
pushed by the Obama administration, including performance pay for
teachers and welcoming charter school policies.
In Tennessee, as part of an effort to better their chances,
lawmakers passed a new law during a special session in January that
requires half of teacher evaluations to be based on student
achievement data, a key reform pushed by the Obama administration
The new law also lifted the state's cap on the number of charter
schools that can open each year and set up a statewide school
district specifically for failing schools. The changes were made
with input from the Tennessee Education Association, the teachers'
"This was a unique situation. I think the leadership of the TEA
stood up and recognized the importance of what was about to happen,
and in these extraordinary times we ought to change the way we do
business," said Tennessee House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike
Delaware had all of its school districts and teachers approve its
"Race to the Top" application, a document that highlighted the
state's new law allowing teachers to be removed from the classroom
if they are rated "ineffective" for two to three years. The state
also offers financial incentives to top-notch educators willing to
work in failing schools and in high-demand subjects.
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"A lot of people said, ‘They're going to end up giving it to lots
of states,' and 'the federal government can never really be
selective.' It turns out they actually were," said Kati Haycock,
president of The Education Trust, a nonpartisan Washington,
D.C.-based think tank. "They're setting the bar this high that only
two states met it; it sends a very powerful message."
Federal education officials were expected to hold a press
conference later Monday to talk about the winners.
The grant program is part of President Barack Obama's economic
stimulus law, which provided $100 billion for schools.
The Education Department asked states to concentrate their
proposals on four areas: 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.
Forty states and Washington, D.C., applied for the grants,
scrambling to widen charter school laws and enact performance pay
for teachers to prove that they deserved part of the money.
Some education observers have criticized the competition, saying
the administration is out of touch because it is pushing reform at a
time when states can barely afford basic necessities and are laying
off teachers by the hundreds.
Applications were read and scored by panels of five peer
reviewers. The 16 with the highest average score visited Washington
this month to present their proposals.
By DORIE TURNER]
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