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Race to the Top: Heavy Lifting from the Locals

Race to the Top deadlines are coming fast.

No, the U.S. Department of Education hasn't announced a third round of the competition. The scramble is on because local schools and districts have to submit plans describing how they're going to make their states' ambitious blueprints for change a reality, in areas such as pay-for-performance, improving the use of data, and revamping math and science curriculum. The challenges vary by state, as I explain in a recently published story. But the nine winning states in round two of the federal competition, plus the District of Columiba, have to have get local participants' plans in to the feds by Nov. 22. The states I talked to are urging districts to give them rough drafts at least a couple weeks before that, to allow for state review.

Federal officials encouraged that give-and-take, saying they learned from the experiences of round-one winners Delaware and Tennessee. "These are hard plans to develop," department officials told me in an email, "and they have to go back and forth among knowledgable teams before they get it 'right.' "

States are trying to help districts with their local plans by working with them at in-person and online workshops. A common concern among local officials: paying for all of the promised Race to the Top policies. Local districts get a share of the money, but several officials told me they were doubtful that a couple million dollars in federal funding would be enough to get the job done.

If you're in a district crafting a scope of work, take a break from your labors and let me know: how easy or difficult has it been for you to put together your local plan?

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