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Education

Will Duncan Regret ‘High, High Bar’ in Race to Top Round 1?

By Michele McNeil — May 20, 2010 1 min read

Minnesota is out of Race to the Top, round two.

Massachusetts is publicly thinking (posturing?) about it.

With two states that have traditionally been national leaders in student performance waffling, or down right begging off of the competition, you’ve got to wonder how strong the field of competition will be for those states that remain. To be sure, some very, very bold plans will come in from the likes of Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, and Georgia, which were strong finalists in round one. But this time, because U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan set a “high, high bar” in round one, picking only two winners, he’s looking to give away 10 to 15 more awards. Just how deep is the Race to the Top bench?

Besides Minnesota, we already know that Kansas, Indiana, and almost certainly Alaska and Texas won’t apply in round two. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin also announced yesterday that his state is dropping out. Vermont announced late last month it wouldn’t apply either. Neither will South Dakota, Idaho, or Wyoming. Other states that likely won’t apply, based on their decision not to file an optional notice of intent with the department, are: Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Virginia. Am I missing any states on the will-not-apply list?

When the June 1 application deadline rolls around, that means there will likely be about 35 competitors (including D.C.). It goes without saying that winners Delaware and Tennessee won’t apply again. That makes the odds of winning far better than the first time around.

Of course, Duncan doesn’t have to give out all of the money in round two. But he probably will. The question is how bold the plans will be from the states that barely make the winning cut. My District Dossier colleague Dakarai Aarons gave me some food for thought: Will Duncan have wished he had given out more awards in round one? (UPDATE: Read Andy Smarick’s take on Duncan’s “nuclear option.”)

For more insight into Duncan’s thoughts about handing out all of the money in round two, read an excerpt below from the media call he did when the round one winners were announced:

...we're not compelled to spend to the penny at all so we'll fund as many good applications as we have. I'm just telling you I'm really confident that we're going to have a lot more good applications than we're actually going to be able to fund...But to answer your question directly, we are not compelled to spend it and somehow if I'm totally wrong and we only get three good applications, we'll fund three applications but that's not what I'm anticipating us to do.

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