The Race… Continues

Strauss compares the Race to The Top competition to Bravo’s Project Runway program

On 4 March, the U.S. Department of Education announced that 15 states and the District of Columbia had been named as finalists in the Race to the Top “competition.”  It’s for $4.35 billion made available by the government to “dramatically re-shape America’s educational system to better engage and prepare our students for success…” ((Hamilton, Justin. United States Government. 16 Finalists Announced in Phase 1 of Race to the Top Competition Finalists to Present in Mid-March; Winners Announced in Early April. Washington: Department of Education, 2010. Web. 30 Mar 2010. <>.))

The Finalists were:

  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee

The department’s 4/3/2010 press release quoted the Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, as saying,

These states are an example for the country of what is possible when adults come together to do the right thing for children.

Yesterday (29 March) the Department announched the two (only two) states that would “win” the Phase I funding, Deleware (approximately $100 million) and Tennessee (approximately $500 million). ((Hamilton, Justin. United States Government. Delaware and Tennessee Win First Race to The Top Grants. Washington: Department of Education, 2010. Web. 30 Mar 2010. <>.))

I became aware of these happenings last night when taking one last look at the news feed on my iPhone, where Valerie Strauss’ The Answer Sheet blog entry caught my attention.  Comparing the mid-March presentations delivered by state teams to the reality fashion show “Project Runway,” Stauss quotes Michael Horne (executive director of education at Innosight Institute and co-author of Disrupting Class) as saying,

There’s a lot of great jargon, but when you step back from it, it’s hard to figure out what they just said they were going to do.

Horne was also quoted in a 29 March DelawareOnline piece,

The strengths of (Delaware’s) application were its use of data and how it ties that to teacher evaluations…  But the (state’s) plan falls short in other areas, including innovative programs and a student-centric focus. ((“Rep. Greg Lavelle criticizes ‘Race to the Top’ program.”DelawareOnline 29 Mar 2010: n. pag. Web. 30 Mar 2010. <>.))

The panelists comments from the mid-March presentations are now available on the Department of Education’s web site.  I haven’t had a chance to read through them yet, but this might be revealing, as states continue to pin down exactly what the department is looking for — an invaluable aid as they continue to vie for the Phase II funding.

I continue to wonder, though, about how close the efforts to win grant money are to truly retooling classrooms for 21st century learning.

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