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Colorado out of first-round of federal education grant competition

Jeremy P. Meyer
The Denver Post

Colorado did not win in the first round of the federal education grant competition known as Race to the Top, the U.S. Department of Education announced this morning.

The winners are Tennessee and Delaware.

“We received many strong proposals from states all across America, but two applications stood out above all others: Delaware and Tennessee,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “Both states have statewide buy-in for comprehensive plans to reform their schools. They have written new laws to support their policies. And they have demonstrated the courage, capacity, and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve outcomes for students.”



Delaware will receive approximately $100 million and Tennessee $500 million to implement their comprehensive school reform plans over the next four years.

Colorado was among the 16 states out of 40 and the District of Columbia tabbed as first-round finalists for a share of $4 billion in school improvement money.



Colorado applied for $377 million to augment its reform efforts, specifically to develop a cross-state data system.

The state had been a strong contender but most education experts placed Colorado’s chances as being slim to win in the first round because the state had not tackled tough issues such as teacher tenure, improving evaluation systems and removal of ineffective teachers.

The state instead formed a governor’s council to look at those issues.



“I am totally impressed they are keeping the bar high,” said Van Schoales, who is the executive director of Education Reform Now. “For Colorado, they said, ‘That’s nice, but it’s not enough.’ Because you need substance behind it.”

The U.S. Department of Education will have about $3.4 billion available for the second phase of the Race to the Top competition.

“We set a very high bar for the first phase,” Duncan said. “With $3.4 billion still available, we’re providing plenty of opportunity for all other states to develop plans and aggressively pursue reform.”

Applications for phase 2 will be due on June 1 with finalists announced in August and winners in September.

The peer reviewers who evaluated the applications awarded the highest scores to Delaware and Tennessee for their commitment to reform from key stakeholders, including elected officials, teacher’s union leaders, and business leaders.

In both states, all school districts committed to implementing Race to the Top reforms.

Delaware and Tennessee also have aggressive plans to improve teacher and principal evaluation, use data to inform instructional decisions, and turn around their lowest-performing schools. In addition, both states have put in place strong laws and policies to support their reform efforts.

Jeremy P. Meyer: 303-954-1367 or jpmeyer@denverpost.com

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