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Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states.


Re: Race to the Top, We Regret to Inform You...

By Michele McNeil — March 02, 2010 2 min read

Politics K-12 has learned that states will get the official word on whether they make it as a finalist for Race to the Top at 11:30 a.m. Thursday. And the news will come via email. So, as you’re filling out your own Race to the Top Madness bracket, Politics K-12—with a big assist from Teacher Beat’s always-snarky Sawchuk and State EdWatch’s Lesli Maxwell—offers up our own version of what those winning, and losing, emails will sound like.

Dear (Insert Winner State Name Here),

Congratulations! You are one step closer to having Arne Duncan show up at your door with a fistful of balloons and a check for up to $700 million. You are a finalist for Race to the Top!

Before you get too excited, (and we realize not all governors may be thrilled at the prospect of taking even more stimulus money) please keep in mind that you must come to Washington, D.C., to make an in-person pitch the week of March 15. Your state must send five people to make a presentation to the judges. (This means you should make sure you’ve actually read the application you’ve submitted.) Please leave your McKinsey and other Gates-funded consultants at home. But media stars like Oprah, Angelina Jolie, and Randi Weingarten are definitely welcome.

And, lucky for you, your entire presentation will be videotaped and then made public on the Internet, where everyone will laugh at your lavender suit with shoulder pads, so choose wisely. For all of you governors and state schools’ chiefs who may have an election in your future, this will surely serve as great fodder for future campaign commercials.

Again, congratulations. And we look forward to seeing you in D.C. soon. Don’t forget to stand on the right and walk on the left when negotiating the Metro escalators.

The Education Department

Dear (Insert Loser State Name Here),

Thank you very much for your interest in Race to the Top. We regret to inform you that you did not clear the very, very high bar that Arne Duncan has set, or fall within a ‘natural break’ in the list of scored applications. You are not a Round One finalist.

Despite the pockets of excellence that are buried somewhere in the 1,000-plus pages of your application, we are not interested in supporting your version of the status quo at this time.

We encourage you to try again. Do not be discouraged at having to submit another 1,000-page application, or having to get all of your LEAs to re-up on those memoranda of understanding, or having to convince your state legislature to create charter schools even though your state is as rural as rural gets. After all, our children cannot wait!

Enclosed, please find helpful comments from our secret panel of peer reviewers, such as: “Define what you mean by ‘partner,’ ‘incent,’ and ‘leverage.’” And one other word of caution: Please try not to steal shamelessly from the winning applications. We will run the applications through

The Education Department

P.S. We have the Common Core standards. Please don’t put them in the appendix.


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