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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

US Ed Secretary Duncan kicks off "Race to the Top" with a Florida flavor



Duncan US Education Secretary Arne Duncan just ended a phone conference with education reporters about how states can qualify for a share of $4.35 billion in competitive grants for what he deems major education reform. To stake a claim to a portion, states would have to meet four key criteria.

They would have to:

  • Reverse the dumbing down of standards and assessments, by adopting a common internationally benchmarked curriculum standard
  • Adopt data systems that allow for the monitoring of student academic growth
  • Identify successful teachers and principals using student results, finding better strategies to reward and retain them while also improving or replacing those who aren't up to the job
  • Accept a willingness to make major reforms to failing schools. "We cannot continue to tinker with terrible schools," Duncan said.

Florida state Rep. Will Weatherford, who's slated to become House speaker in a few years, told the Gradebook that he believes the state is situated to grab a big chunk of the change. "We are ahead of the curve," Weatherford said, noting the state already has many programs such as performance pay and charter schools that the Obama administration has touted as important to qualify for the Race to the Top.

Perhaps he's right.

Other evidence that Florida is on the right track -- when President Obama joins Duncan at 12:15 to formally announce he draft application, Florida education commissioner Eric J. Smith and Hillsborough teachers union president Jean Clements are included in the short list of key speakers at the event. Watch the announcement live here.

Duncan said the the application for the grant should be available in October, with the first round of awards coming in March.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:29am]


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