Posted on 29 March 2010.
By Nancy Mitchell, EDUCATION NEWS COLORADO
Colorado’s bid for $377 million to jump-start its education reform plan was not among the two Race to the Top winners announced this morning by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Instead, the winners are Delaware and Tennessee. Georgia and Florida just missed the winners’ circle, ranked third and fourth, according to the New York Times and the Washington Post.
The winning states will receive a piece of the $4.35 billion federal grant competition, which drew applications from 40 states and the District of Columbia. Sixteen finalists were named March 4.
Today’s news, first issued via Twitter and later in an 11 a.m. news release, said the two states will receive a combined $600 million. Delaware sought $107 million in its application and Tennessee asked for $502 million.
That leaves more than $3.3 billion for states applying for round two of the Race, which has a June 1 deadline. Colorado is expected to apply again.
Duncan, in his press release, said “We received many strong proposals from states all across America, but two applications stood out above all others: Delaware and Tennessee.
“Both states have statewide buy-in for comprehensive plans to reform their schools. They have written new laws to support their policies,” he said. “And they have demonstrated the courage, capacity, and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve outcomes for students.”
Gov. Bill Ritter, Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien and the state’s education commissioner, Dwight Jones, are scheduled to talk about Race to the Top at an 11:45 a.m. press conference at the capitol.
State leaders have said they plan to follow the education reforms detailed in Colorado’s 152-page application whether the state wins or loses its Race bid – but the grant money would speed the plan.
In addition to Colorado, these states made it to finalist status but were not named winners - the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.
Several national observers were disappointed when Duncan named more finalists than expected. Today’s decision naming just two winners was rapidly commented on by bloggers, including those at the industry journal Education Week.
They described Duncan as “finally making good on promises to set a very, very high bar” in the Race.
Andy Smarick, a former U.S. Department of Education official who’s been closely following the competition, blogged a quick analysis that said the winning states “distinguished themselves with good plans and nearly unanimous union and (school district) support.”
Colorado’s $377 million bid exceeded the federal government’s suggested budget guidelines for a state of its size. Those guidelines were $60 million to $175 million.
In one major change for round two announced today, the Department of Education will require states to be within the suggested ranges. So Colorado leaders will likely have to ratchet down their application numbers.
But it’s unlikely the state’s big overall dollar figure made a difference in the first round. Fifteen of the 16 finalists blew their suggested budgets as well.
What are the big-ticket items in the state’s application?
– $67.8 million to develop and implement new teacher and principal evaluation systems by 2011-12. The money would provide staff for two years to help school districts enact the systems, which must link student test scores to decisions about educator pay, tenure and dismissal.
– $41.4 million to create the Colorado Turnaround Center, a nonprofit that would build the pipeline of quality teachers and leaders to work in the state’s most struggling schools, including re-starts and opening new schools, as well as share knowledge about successful strategies.
– $37 million in undesignated funds to be distributed in “subgrants” to the 134 of Colorado’s 178 school districts that signed on to participate in Race to the Top. Those districts represent 94 percent of the state’s students, including 95 percent of minority pupils and 94 percent of those living in poverty.
Race to the Top grants are for four years – Colorado’s $377 million bid, then, represents a tiny portion of the state’s four-year spending on K-12 education or about $25 billion.
But in tough economic times, many were looking to the grant to help finance education initiatives already enacted but little funded, such as the Ritter’s Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids.
Colorado leaders are likely to revise their application based on feedback from the panel of reviewers that awarded them finalist status.
All applications were graded on a 500-point scale – all finalists received at least 400 points.
The finalists then flew to D.C. to meet with reviewers and Duncan for a 90-minute Q and A about their applications. And they got to meet with federal budget officers to talk about their financials.
Colorado is expected to use those conversations, and the reviewers’ extensive notes, to tweak its application for round two.
Win or lose, some major planks in the state’s application are moving forward, including the Governor’s Council for Educator Effectiveness.
The 15-member group began meeting earlier this month and is charged with creating definitions of teacher and principal effectiveness and how to measure them. That’s to include an evaluation system based at least 50 percent on measures of student growth.
Colorado sought $605,000 in its Race application to fund the council’s work over 18 months. State officials said they’re seeking other sources of finance.
“Just rest assured that what you guys need will be taken care of,” Ritter education advisor Liz Aybar told council members at their first meeting.
Click here to go to the Colorado Department of Education’s Race to the Top page, to see a summary of the state’s application, its full application and a budget.
Click here to see all of the states’ applications for Race to the Top, including the winning bids from Delaware and Tennessee.
Click here to see prior EdNews’ stories about Race to the Top.