About 2,490 districts and nonprofits have indicated they are going to throw their hats into the ring in hopes of nabbing part of the $650 million Investing in Innovation grant program. That is going to require a lot of peer reviewers. Yesterday was the deadline for applicants interested in the i3 program to file an optional notice of intent to apply with the U.S. Department of Education. This wasn't required, nor is filing a notice binding. An applicant can later decide not to apply, and those who didn't notify the department can still apply (think Michigan and Race ...


Louisiana officials are complaining that one Race to the Top judge sank their entire application. Well, you can judge for yourself, but our own quick analysis shows Louisiana was affected more than any other finalist state by scoring outliers. With the help of Stephen Sawchuk of Teacher Beat fame, we cobbled together our own scoring spreadsheet, throwing out the lowest and the highest score for each state, and averaging the remaining three scores. This means that a really hard grader, or a really easy grader, can't unduly influence the scores. We'll call this the McNeil-Sawchuk scoring system, inspired by the ...


Behind the overall scores for the Race to the Top applicants is a complicated 500-point grading scale that weighs each state's plan according to more than a dozen different categories. The peer reviewers' scores and comments shed more light on the method behind the Race to the Top scoring madness. After a quick review of the 16 finalists' scoring charts, here are some highlights I picked up: Why Delaware and Tennessee won—In addition to the reasons detailed here, it's clear in looking at the judges' scores that the full panel of five peer reviewers agreed these were strong applications,...


The Education Department has made an important change to Round 2 of the Race to the Top competition that has big—and not necessarily positive—implications for the remaining 48 states and D.C. if they plan to seek a share of the $3 billion or so still left. In Round 2, Race to the Top awards will be capped at levels outlined in what originally were the Education Department's original nonbinding estimates. Those estimates will now be binding. That means Round 1 winning states Delaware and Tennessee, in addition to bragging rights, got a financial bonus, too: Their grants...


Only 2 of 41 applicants are victorious in Round 1 of this $4 billion education-reform competition.


In two words: stakeholder support. Both states had strong plans and significant buy-in from local school districts and teachers' unions. Other reasons the two states won, according to the Education Department: Delaware • Unanimous participation, broad collaboration: 100% of the state's districts and teachers signed on; 100% of the state's students will benefit; stakeholders include governor, state education department, local districts (LEAs), unions, business community • New state law on teacher/principal effectiveness: no educators can be rated as "effective" unless their students demonstrate satisfactory levels of growth; teachers rated as "ineffective" for two to three years can be removed from the ...


So it's finally here, or almost here ... The U.S. Department of Education says it will announce the lucky winners in the first round of the $4 billion Race to the Top competition on Monday. There were 16 finalists this time around, but the department hasn't yet said how many winners to expect. But it seems likely the number will be on the small side. Joanne Weiss, the department's Race to the Top guru, told state officials there would be plenty of money left in Round 2. Those that don't make the cut will get feedback from the peer reviewers ...


With the Race to the Top winners expected to be announced "very soon," it seems particularly urgent to start thinking about what the winning states will actually do with all of their money. And whether it will do any good... As I've blogged before, all of the states--except Pennsylvania--asked for more money in their RTT applications than what the Education Department had estimated as a top-of-the-line grant. Which brings up important questions about a state's capacity to deliver on its grand promises, with less money. This question become even more critical when you look at the potential winners, and just ...


Last week, lawmakers began to turn up the pushback on the department's budget proposal, including an extension for the $4 billion Race to the Top program for another year. Much of the ire came from the House Appropriations Committee, especially its chairman, Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wisc., who has questioned the administration's reform agenda in the past. Here's a snippet from his opening statement at a hearing last week on the U.S. Department of Education's fiscal year 2011 budget, at which Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified: That request includes over $3.5 billion for new and untested initiatives, ...


Those who don't know what the terms "internal validity" and "external validity" mean. That's the message that came through loud and clear at Friday's technical assistance planning seminar in Baltimore, which the U.S. Department of Education put on to help folks navigate the Investing in Innovation, or i3, grant application process. This $650 million grant program is open to school districts, and nonprofits that partner with a school district or a consortium of public schools. Applications are due May 11, with awards announced in September. And if attendance at Friday's seminar was any indication, the department is going to ...


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