Michigan not seen as 'Race' front-runner

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Will Michigan be included when first-round finalists in the Race to the Top program are named, possibly this week? Not according to most predictions by national education writers and observers, though the final decision is up to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Forty states and the District of Columbia applied for a share of the $4.35 billion that will be distributed on a competitive basis to states that have promised various educational reforms and innovations. First-round finalists may be named this week, followed by first-round winners in April and then a second round in September.

Michigan's own education leaders have suggested that the state will stand a better chance in the second round, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

Education Week reporters predicted that Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Illinois and Tennessee will win first-round grants based on such things as their support of charter schools and use of student test scores to evaluate teachers.

Thomas W. Carroll, president of the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, also names Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee as likely winners, but says Michigan is "competitive" as well, based on the legislation it adopted on failing schools, charter school growth and teacher evaluation.

Michigan was not mentioned in a Washington Post column by Kevin Huffman, executive vice president of public affairs for Teach for America, who says the real question is whether promised reforms actually come about. He credited Louisiana for submitting a realistic plan based on expanding programs that already are in place.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Pundits don't expect Michigan to appear at Race to Top finish line," March 1, 2010

Education Week, "Race to Top Madness Almost Here!" March 1, 2010 (Subscription required)

City Journal, "Who's Winning the Race to the Top?" Feb. 26, 2010

The Washington Post, "Education reform's 'Race to the Top' features some non-starters," Jan. 30, 2010

Michigan Education Report, "State to schools: Think outside the classroom," Oct. 2, 2009