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Race to Top's Live Performances: How Key Were They?

Next week, when the Education Department posts videos of the Race to the Top finalists' appearances before a panel of reviewers, we'll get to judge for ourselves which states came with tight, well-rehearsed pitches and which states fumbled, or may have just flat-out bombed.

But while we wait for those sure-to-be scintillating performances to go online, we can learn quite a bit about how each finalist did by comparing how many points they had going into the 90-minute presentations with how many points they had as their final score.

For two finalists&mdash New York and Ohio&mdash it's an embarrassing outcome.

Both states lost points after making their live presentations: New York dropped by 2.6 points to finish in 15th place, and Ohio lost 4.8 points to end in 10th place. Going into the presentations, Ohio was tied with Illinois for fourth place with 423.4 points. What went wrong, Ohio?

It looks like the judges had a hard time squaring Ohio's reform plans on paper with the political and logistical challenges that became clear during the state delegation's interview. For example, one judge wrote that "professional union participation is presently only contemplated" in some school districts and that formal participation would have to be negotiated. That, said the reviewer, could negatively affect statewide implementation and impact.

Among the judges' comments on New York's presentation was one that said the state's Race to the Top team failed to provide "enough explanation" as to how its department of education would ensure that the reforms it was proposing would be adopted on a wide-scale basis. And the judges docked New York for its team's response to a question about the state's cap on charters, which as the judge put it, "was not convincing enough to allay fears, that, as a state, NY lacks the collective will to make critical changes to existing laws that act as impediments to substantive reform."

Delaware, which, along with Tennessee, won round one of the competition, must have knocked it out of the park with its presentation. Already in a strong second place position with 438.4 points as it headed into the final presentation, Delaware's final score rose a whopping 16.2 points, which propelled it to a first place finish over Tennessee with 454.6 points. Tennessee only gained 0.8 points after its presentation to end with a final score of 444.2.

Jack Markell, Delaware's governor, said in a conference call with reporters that the state's Race to the Top delegation, which included him, rehearsed for seven straight days for several hours each day. He gave huge props to Diane Donohue, the president of the Delaware State Education Association, for her role on the team. She presented the state's teacher effectiveness plan, which clearly made an impression on the judges.

In comments about the state's presentation, one wrote that Delaware's team "strongly conveyed the 100 percent commitment and buy-in from teachers and the teachers' union."

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