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What Really Annoyed the Race to Top Peer Reviewers

At the conclusion of today's Race to the Top technical assistance seminar for state applicants in Minneapolis, Education Department officials gave some insight into what the peer reviewers really liked, and what they really didn't like, about states' first-round applications.

And, it's important to consider this feedback, since the vast majority of the round-one peer reviewers will return for round two.

First, let's start with the basics of document presentation and organization. The peer reviewers would really appreciate that applications have page numbers, a table-of-contents, and are legible. Sheessh. They're asking a lot. Sadly, this means some first-round applications had parts that weren't legible, and didn't have page numbers.

Now, about writing the document. The peer reviewers are clearly a bunch of professors. They would like a coherent, flowing application with topic sentences, and without too many "buzzwords" or acronyms. The peer reviewers can apparently tell when states have delegated sections of the application to different writers and teams. They would prefer an application written with "one voice."

And finally, about the content of the applications. If a question asks states to address teachers and principals, then address both. They notice when states give only partial answers. Credibility also matters. The peer reviewers want an honest, straightforward application that addresses weaknesses or a lack of data head-on, and that doesn't use long, windy sentences to try to get around an issue.

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