The Race is now over (at least until EdSec Duncan gets funding for the third leg of his proposed Triple Crown for school improvement). Some expected and some surprises standing in the winners’ circle. Ten RttT Phase Two recipients in all, including (highest scores first): Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, Florida, Rhode Island, District of Columbia, Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, and Ohio.
In the coming days, there will be significant electronic space dedicated to dissecting the scores, looking for hidden meaning in the rankings, and generally seeking out those elements that go bump in the night. But there are a few takeaways we can see immediately:
1) As all college basketball fans know, we live in an ACC/SEC world (just ask SportsCenter). The RttT winners list reinforces this, offering a who’s who of East Coast states. One winner west of the Mississippi (Hawaii), and if you remove that outlier, the westernmost RttT winner is … Ohio. While I’m not sure what that says about school improvement in the Midwest, Southwest, Pacific Northwest, and such, I know it offers some great hoops possibilities in that RttT bracket.
2) Oral defenses mattered this time around. In Phase One, most scores didn’t move after presentations in DC. Delaware had the largest jump, winning it a Phase One check. But most Phase One states saw single digit changes, with some seeking just a fraction of a point difference. Phase Two was a completely different story. Six states (AZ, CO, DC, FL, NJ, and OH) all saw double-digit increases, thanks to their defense. It likely made the difference for at least two of the three winners (DC and OH).
3) There were a few surprises in the winners, particularly Maryland and Hawaii. Maryland sat out Phase I. Hawaii placed 22nd the last time around. The other eight were all finalists this time around, and were expected to do well this go around. And show me one person who thought New York would do that well (second place, really?).
4) The biggest surprises of those not winning everyone is talking about? Most seem to point to Louisiana and Colorado. In Phase One, Louisiana placed 11th and Colorado placed 14th. Colorado increased its points total nearly 11 points in this round, while Louisiana increased its point total about 18 points. So both improved (slightly) for the second round. It is just that others posted far more impressive improvements.
5) The biggest surprises of those not winning no one seems to be talking about? Illinois was 5th in Phase One, but fell to 15th this round. Pennsylvania was 7th in Phase One, falling to 18th this round (and actually losing points in the process). Kentucky was 9th in Phase One and slipped to 19th this round, losing six points.
6) Who just missed? Ohio was the 10th of 10 winners, scoring 440.8. New Jersey finished 11th, at 437.8. Arizona was 12th, at 435.4. And Louisiana came in 13th at 434.0. So 1 percent separated a winner from three left on the outside looking in.
7) Only two states lost points between rounds — Arkansas and Pennsylvania. Most states posted huge gains, including a 195-point gain from Arizona, an 87-point gain from California, a 64-point gain from New Hampshire, and a 60-point gain from Massachusetts. So credit to virtually all for learning from Phase One (or from benefiting from a more lenient judge pool).
8) Delaware would have come in 4th place in Phase Two, following Massachusetts, New York, and Hawaii. Tennessee would have been 9th this round (10th if Delaware was in), coming in less than four points higher than Ohio.
9) And the most interesting fun fact? Utah gained just fourth-tenths of a point in Phase Two. Now that is consistency at its best.
Stay tuned for the conspiracy chatter. What states lost because of lukewarm support from the unions (I’m looking at you NJ and LA)? Were data systems a problem (can’t be, based on NY’s strong showing, right)? Did Common Core State Standards play a tipping point between the haves and have nots? Would Romanian skating rules judging have changed the order? What really happened in Colorado? Inquiring minds need to know.