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Massachusetts Applies for Race to Top Round 2

Massachusetts decided to apply for Race to the Top funding in Round 2 after all. So that means it has to adopt the common standards by Aug. 2, or lose points—as it did in Round 1—in the competition.

A couple weeks ago, Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester said that officials there were reconsidering applying for Round 2. But they apparently decided to go for it, because they submitted their application on Saturday, according to this story from the Boston Globe.

There were some who saw Massachusetts' "reconsidering" stance as purely political. Critics who think the common standards would represent a step down for Massachusetts contend that the state was essentially trying to have it both ways: taking a stance that it is committed to preserving its own high standards, even as its leaders plan to apply for Race to the Top, which requires the adoption of common standards.

Others said they didn't see an inherent contradiction in the state's position. What is inconsistent, these folks asked, in simply laying out a timeline for Aug. 2 adoption? The state still can decide against adoption if it decides the new set of standards falls short. (Exactly what happens to a state that wins RTT money and then backs off one of the key commitments it made to get it is still an unanswered question. The feds have said, somewhat vaguely, that serious departures would require attention.)

We'll never know how truly and deeply Massachusetts actually reconsidered applying for Race to the Top. But it's in it now. So the battle over common standards is joined in the Bay State.

Meanwhile, debate continues about the entanglement of Race to the Top and common standards. The National Journal is asking whether Virginia's decision to forego RTT money because of common standards bodes poorly for the standards initiative.

Even as states ask themselves whether they will adopt the common standards, more than 50 superintendents of the biggest school districts in the country are pledging their support for the initiative. The districts are members of the Council of the Great City Schools, which has pressed for common standards for years, noting that urban schoolchildren are among the students who pay the greatest price when standards vary wildly among schools, districts and states. As we've mentioned before, the Council is teaming up with the American Federation of Teachers to find a way to pilot the common standards in a half-dozen or so urban districts.

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