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Will States Use Common Standards to Boost Race to Top Bids?

States are working to complete their applications for Round 2 of the Race to the Top competition. In doing so, they are, of course, scrutinizing the ways in which their Round 1 applications fell short, and trying to shore up those weaknesses for a second bite at the apple.

Case in point: Massachusetts. This story from the Lowell Sun notes that the state could pick up 15 points by adopting the common standards by the Aug. 2 deadline specified in the RTT rules (though the Ed Department's RTT scoring rubric specifies 20 points for standards adoption. Hmmm.). In a memo to the Massachusetts board of education last week, Commissioner of Education Mitchell D. Chester sketched out a timetable for adoption that complies with that timeline. UPDATE: Race to the Top chief Joanne Weiss e-mailed in response to my "hmmm." She explains that Massachusetts got only 5 of the 20 points available for adopting common standards in Round 1, so in Round 2 it could conceivably pick up the other 15. Thanks for the clarification!

Whether the Massachusetts board will indeed adopt the standards—especially in the face of criticism and questions in some quarters about whether they're as rigorous as Massachusetts' current standards—is anyone's guess. And whether they'll do so by the Aug. 2 deadline, to gain maximum RTT points, is also a question. (Ed Secretary Paul Reville addresses this watering-down allegation at a recent convening about the common standards.)

Then there's the question of whether gaining any points for adoption will make a difference, if other stumbling blocks in the state's Round 1 application (think teacher evaluation, union buy-in) can't be resolved.

Massachusetts is not the only state mulling over the role common standards will play in its Round 2 RTT strategy. A recent Power Point presentation made by Florida department of education officials mentions it as well, and notes that the state board of education is aiming to adopt the standards in late July.

UPDATE: Maryland plans a tentative approval of the standards next week. Department of education spokesman William Reinhard says the board "believes that embracing the common core could have a positive effect on Maryland's RTTT submission." Since the final standards won't be available before the June 1 deadline, however, the board will reserve final approval for later, he said.

Common-standards advocates who are tracking state adoption timelines have found that fewer than a dozen plan adoptions later than the Aug. 2 RTT deadline.

My colleague Michele McNeil details the Round 2 activity, including Massachusetts' and Florida's actions to resituate themselves, in this story.

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