Race to the Top: Predicting round-two winners

The second-round application deadline for the Race to the Top competition has now passed. Thirty-five states and Washington, D.C. applied. Which ones will win?

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has indicated that 10-15 states are likely to receive grants this time around, up from just two winners — Delaware and Tennessee — in the first round of the competition.

Here are my predictions for which states stand the best chance of winning a piece of the $3.4-billion pie (in alphabetical order):

Race to the Top Applicants (created by Davin McHenry)

North Carolina
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Washington, D.C.

Colorado, which finished a distant 14th out of 16 finalists in the first round, seems to have improved its chances considerably by passing bold legislation last month that will link teacher evaluations to student achievement.

Rhode Island, which placed eighth in the first round, may have burnished its image and application courtesy of Central Falls High School. The school made headlines in February when the superintendent decided to fire all of its teachers at the end of the current academic year as part of her “turnaround” plan for the troubled institution.

The dramatic step won nods of approval from Arne Duncan and even President Barack Obama, who himself weighed in on the issue: “If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn’t show signs of improvement, then there’s got to be a sense of accountability. And that’s what happened in Rhode Island last week.” (Last month, however, an agreement was reached between the superintendent and the teachers’ union that will allow all Central Falls teachers to keep their jobs come this fall.)

Florida’s chances in the second round might have been compromised somewhat by Gov. Charlie Crist’s decision in April to veto a bill that would have radically altered how the state’s teachers are paid and gain tenure. But Florida finished fourth the first time around and thus will probably sneak into the top 15 in the second round.

The biggest unknown is how the six states that applied only in the second round will fare. Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada and Washington have all taken the plunge for the first time. How will they do? I’ve got my money on Maryland and Washington in this group.

Which states do you think are most likely to win — and why?

Justin Snider

POSTED BY ON June 2, 2010