Jockeying for Race’s Post Position

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education released the list of all states that have indicated that they will file Phase One applications under Race to the Top.  Each of these states hopes to submit a comprehensive application that highlights both their successes to date and their plans for the future on areas such as academic standards, assessments, data systems, teacher and principal quality, school turnaround, charter schools, and STEM, to name the highlights.  And they each hope to be awarded a “big cash prize” before we get too deep into the spring of 2010 and before the merriment of commencement commences.

What states are planning on having their state departments of education work around the holiday clock to complete these RttT applications?  ED has received letters of Phase One intent from the following:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Of the 15 states receiving significant help from the Gates Foundation to prepare their applications, 13 are planning on Phase One apps.  Not surprisingly, Texas is not on the early intent list (as the Republic of Texas is likely trying to figure out how to make up points for the big dings it will take over its resistance to common core standards.  Surprisingly, North Carolina has NOT indicated its intent to submit in Phase One, despite the Tar Heel State’s reputation for being a true leader in education reforms over the past three decades.
Other surprises?  Eduflack finds it interesting that both New Jersey and Virginia are intending to file for Phase One, meaning that both states will submit their apps before their new governors of different political parties than the currents take office in January.  It is particularly surprising since Eduflack heard that the Garden State had originally issued an RFP to hire consultants to assist with its application, and then returned all proposals, unopened, after the November gubernatorial election.  That likely means that Jon Corzine’s team is putting together a comprehensive plan that Chris Christie’s team (which will bring a SLIGHTLY different perspective to education reform) may have to live with.
While the official RttT scoring makes clear that past accomplishments are worth more points than plans for the future, we see a number of states that have made major changes in recent months (firewalls, charter caps, etc.) just to be compliant with Race requirements.  States like California, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, and Wisconsin will have to demonstrate — in just a few short weeks — that recent legislative action is the culmination of a commitment to school improvement, and not simply fast action to win some quick money.
And who is missing from the list, besides North Carolina?  Rhode Island is not there, probably indicating that State Supe Deborah Gist is working to do it right (with regard to detailing her aggressive reform agenda in a few hundred pages of prose).  But otherwise, the early app list reads like a list of those most likely to win and those most hopeful to win a major prize.
In recent interviews RttT Czar Joanne Weiss has indicated that a number of states will be rejected in Phase One.  What is yet to be told is if those states will be given a second bite of the apple in Phase Two.  The numbers don’t lie.  Most states will be requesting the max, except for those states like Colorado which will be asking for more than their assigned category allows for.  That means that we are likely looking at a dozen state winners, max, assuming that only half of the Group A states (California, Florida, New York, Texas) win an award (and we all know that Florida has already all but locked up one of those spots).  
For those states looking to jump in first, is it a strategic decision, as they hope to get at the money before much has been doled out?  It is a tactical decision to just get the app off their plates before the new budget season starts up?  Or is it an act of desperation, with states needing the money to keep their forward progress?  Time will tell.  Clearly, there are likely to be more disappointed faces in this early applicant pool than there will be excited winners.  And just think of the added stress to those states waiting to submit in the spring.
  
UPDATE — Late Wednesday evening, Eduflack heard from Glenn Kleiman, the Executive Director of the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation and Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at North Carolina State University’s College of Education.  Professor Kleiman said “NC has planned to submit all along and we have the proposal well underway.  The USED letters of intent were optional, and don’t tell anyone whether or not a state will actually apply.”  For the record, Eduflack never doubted that North Carolina would apply, the issue is whether the state would apply in Phase One.  Professor Kleiman hasn’t answered that directly, but I suspect that such a response suggests that Phase One is indeed in the cards for Carolina.  So where is the harm of North Carolina filing a two-paragraph letter announcing its intent (particularly when everyone knows they are applying)?
  

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