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Posted at 3:26 PM ET, 07/27/2010

Md., D.C. are Race to the Top finalists

By Nick Anderson

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced Tuesday at the National Press Club that Maryland and the District are among 19 finalists to share in $3.4 billion remaining in the Race to the Top for school reform. Winners will be announced in September. But Duncan was asked whether D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's decision last week to fire more than 200 teachers would enhance the city's chances.

"It's a race to the top," Duncan said. "I don't think anyone's going to fire their way to the top."

But he generally praised Rhee for having "honest conversations" about teacher performance and he noted that the chancellor had struck a deal with the Washington Teachers' Union for performance pay. He called it "a breakthrough labor agreement" and said, "the details of that, they'll work out at the local level."

Maryland, meanwhile, celebrated making the first cut in the contest's second round after sitting out the first round. Virginia competed in the first round, finished far out of contention and is sitting out the second round.

Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said: "We wanted to be sure we had a really high-quality proposal. I think we did. It builds on so many initiatives that we've started." She added: "I don't want to be overly confident, believe me, but I do think we're well-positioned."

Grasmick, Gov. Martin O'Malley and Prince George's County Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. will make the state's case for a grant in an interview scheduled for Aug. 11. The state is eligible for as much as $250 million.

Delaware won $100 million and Tennessee $500 million in the first round in March. The contest emphasizes linking student achievement to teacher evaluations, turning around low-performing schools and other measures favored by Duncan. For the latest on where the Obama administration education agenda stands in Congress, go here.

By Nick Anderson  | July 27, 2010; 3:26 PM ET
Categories:  DC, Maryland  
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