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Big Promises in Race to the Top Applications

With the deadline less than an hour away for states to get their Race to the Top applications in, many already are putting their exhaustive submissions online. It will be interesting to see if all states follow suit and publicize their applications.

The U.S. Department of Education has said it won't make the applications public until the winners are announced in April. But what's already online makes for very interesting reading, especially the opening narratives in which states are encouraged to brag about how great they are in the area of education policy.

Florida's 327-page application (not counting the 606-page appendix) boasts: "Florida is better poised than any other state to implement RTTT successfully because Florida has learned from prior reforms and has built a valuable knowledge base of what is necessary to implement a successful comprehensive RTTT agenda."

That Race to the Top agenda would cost a whopping $1.14 billion, Florida estimates. That's far higher that what the U.S. Education Department estimated in its award ranges. The biggest states would get grants of up to $700 million, according to those nonbinding estimates.

Washington, D.C., is also not shy about bragging on itself. Its 184-page application proclaims: "The District of Columbia boasts the nation's most exciting, dynamic reform agenda." It's asking for $112 million. (The Education Department's range for D.C. and the smallest states is $20 million to $75 million.)

As my colleague Lesli Maxwell suggests, perhaps we're going to have to develop a truth squad to evaluate all of the bold claims made in these applications. But perhaps the real issue is whether the peer reviewers who will judge these applications will be able to sort fact from fiction.

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