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Race to Top pace slows

The “golden ticket” of the Race to the Top, the competitive portion of the federal stimulus law that’s focused on education reform, seems to be receding further into the future.

It looks like federal Department of Education leaders are remaking the program as they go, and various deadlines and the eventual awards of cash are being pushed back.

Here are some of the latest developments, as revealed at a recent meeting of governors and gubernatorial aides in North Carolina and at other venues:

Initial DOE guidance for states on the Race was supposed to be released this month but now won’t come until July. Reportedly the document needed more work because of feedback and questions from states.

Issuance of that document now will trigger a 60-day period for comment and hearings.
DOE may be adding early childhood and higher education components to the Race. As originally announced, the Race was to focus on teacher quality, data and testing systems, low-performing schools and benchmark standards and assessments.

The official request for proposals won’t be issued until October, with a Dec. 1 deadline for states to submit applications. Announcement of winning grants won’t be made until next February.
DOE originally said 10 percent of Race grants would be issued late this year, with the remaining 90 percent going out next spring. The 10/90 split apparently has been dropped.

But, in addition to the Dec. 1 deadline, states also will have an opportunity to apply in June or July 2010.

There’s apparently no word yet on the total $4.3 billion in Race grants may be divided among the Dec. 1 and 2010 applicants.

Speaking elsewhere, DOE Secretary Arne Duncan also said up to $350 million of Race funds would go to states to create rigorous assessments linked to the internationally benchmarked common standards being developed by a group of states (including Colorado).

Despite the shifting signals, Colorado leaders remain optimistic about the state’s chances. “We think we’re a ready state [but] I don’t know if we’re going to get it,” said Matt Gianneschi, Gov. Bill Ritter’s education advisor. “We had thought this would be over by October.”

Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien said, “Every single policy area discussed at the Race to the Top summit indicates that Colorado is well-positioned to receive Race to the Top funds. However, we still know that we have to push the boundaries of innovation and achievement to be successful.”

O’Brien’s office is proceeding with plans to create advisory committees around the four areas of emphasis listed above.

Still up the air is the summer and fall schedule for the P-20 Education Coordinating Council. The governor’s office wants to give the council assignments that won’t conflict with Race preparation, but the change in the feds’ schedule has introduced a new complication.

Some stimulus money is flowing. The governor’s office announced this week that $1.4 million has been awarded for AmeriCorps-related programs in Colorado, the kinds of programs that often involve at-risk youth. The state also reported $12.7 million in stimulus-related research grants to the University of Colorado.

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