Race to the Top: Picking Favorites

Tuesday, June 1, 2010
6/25/2010 UPDATE: Per the Capital Times story this morning about Wisconsin's chances, I stand behind my contention that the state is an unlikely Phase Two winner. As is the case with numerous states that fell in the middle or bottom of the pack in Phase One (WI was 26 out of 41 applicants), I don't believe that Wisconsin passed significant enough reforms since then to improve its competitive chances (as compared to Colorado, Connecticut, New York and Oklahoma, for example). However, state education leaders - including State Superintendent Tony Evers - deserve credit for authoring a much stronger proposal this time and for gaining widespread buy-in for the proposed reforms. Hopefully, many of those ideas can be carried forward regardless of the RTTT outcome.

Although this is a joint blog, this post is entirely my own and not Sara's. -- Liam Goldrick

Final Race to the Top Phase Two applications are not yet publicly available, so this may be a bit premature. But everyone likes fun parlor games, right? Plus, I hear that there may be a Race to the Top void to fill.

If one assumes that states with the highest Phase One scores will come in strong again in Phase Two -- and that's a significant "if" -- one can look at recent policy changes to determine which states may have strengthened their hand. Conventional wisdom suggests that Colorado, Louisiana and New York have moved on up as a result of recent legislative activity.

There are numerous wild cards, of course, including six new applicants (Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, and Washington), reduced Phase 2 requested budgets that will change the elements of nearly every state's application, and stronger (or weaker) support for state applications from unions and school districts that may change the overall calculus.

Here is my early look at the competitiveness of states in Phase Two (with their Phase One ranking (if applicable) in parentheses):

Colorado (14)
Florida (4)
Georgia (3)
Illinois (5)
Kentucky (9)
Louisiana (11)
Massachusetts (13)
North Carolina (12)
Ohio (10)
Pennsylvania (7)
Rhode Island (8)
South Carolina (6)

That's 12 states. If one believes the U.S. Department of Education's public statements that no more than 10-15 states will be funded in Phase Two, there's not much (any?) room left in the winners' circle, assuming none of these applicants are knocked out of the running.

Arkansas (17)
District of Columbia (16)
Maryland (n/a)
Michigan (21)
New Jersey (18)
New York (15)

California (27)
Connecticut (25)
Oklahoma (34)
Utah (19)

What's your take? Are there "frontrunners" from Phase One that shouldn't be considered as such? Are there other "dark horses" who should be on this list? Do any of the six new applicants have a real chance?

As state applications become available, we'll take a closer look and provide further analysis as time allows.