Minnesota gets more details on failed bid for 'Race' money

Minnesota education officials learned more details Monday about why they lost out in a competition for money called "Race to the Top."

Only two states won any money - Tennessee and Delaware. Scores for all states were released, along with comments that reviewers made on each application.

Minnesota scored 375 out of 500, nearly 70 points behind the winning states.

The state will likely have to bolster its application if makes a second bid for the money this summer.

Department spokesman Bill Walsh says Minnesota lost some points because federal officials want schools to have more leverage to hire and fire teachers.

"We can't do that in Minnesota. So we need the Legislature to change those laws and we need the state teacher's union to stop blocking those reforms," Walsh said. "And then we need the state teacher's union to join us in our application going forward in order to be successful for round two."

Specifically, Walsh cited legislation at the Capitol that would allow for what's called 'alternative licensure' for teachers, which recently passed a legislative committee but which is opposed by the teachers' union Education Minnesota.

The union said in a statement that the department should take responsibility for its own failed application. The union notes Minnesota also lost points for inadequate plans to improve the performance of students of color, often referred to as the 'achievement gap.'

Union president Tom Dooher also said in the statement that his organization is "fully prepared to play a positive role in creating a successful application the second time around."

Minnesota's score of 375 ranked 20th. Iowa came in 24th with 346 points, while Wisconsin was 26th with 341.2 points. South Dakota had the lowest score of any state to apply, 135.8. North Dakota did not apply.

Monday's award of funding to Delaware and Tennessee totaled $600 million, money that comes from a pot of $4.35 billion the Obama administration has set aside for the Race to the Top competition.

There will already be a second round of funding later this year, and the president's proposed budget for next year includes a third round of funding.

Here is a sample of comments made by reviewers of Minnesota's Race to the Top application (names of the reviewers were not disclosed):

"The plan does not move past past success to a comprehensive and coherent reform agenda going forward -- unless, the State's plan is to continue down its current path."

"Of note, a little more than 1 out of every 10 eligible teacher's unions signed on; this may reflect the practical and political challenges the State will face implementing its plan."

"The narrative also does not articulate a clear strategy of how the state will increase student achievement state-wide, decrease achievement gaps, increase graduation rates, and college enrollment and proficiency."

"The State has the potential to become a national model for getting pay for performance right."

"The state's goal for insuring equitable distribution seems to be "addition by subtraction" -- adding more effective teachers, but not aggressively removing ineffective teachers. The state's goal seems achievable, although not ambitious."

"The fact that only 12% of local union leaders (36 out of 299 applicable) in the participating LEAs endorsed the state's application raises a concern about barriers that may need to be addressed by the state and at the local level."

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