7 states win federal education competition

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Seven states won a share of $200 million in federal “Race to the Top” money to improve K-12 education programs, the Education Department announced Thursday.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Seven states won a share of $200 million in federal "Race to the Top" money to improve K-12 education programs, the Education Department announced Thursday.

The winners are Arizona, $25.1 million; Colorado, $17.9 million; Illinois, $42.8 million; Kentucky, $17 million; Louisiana, $17.5 million; Pennsylvania, $41.3 million; and New Jersey, $37.9 million.

The Obama administration has awarded billions of dollars in such competitions to encourage changes in education that it favors. The seven states competing in this round were all runners-up last year, and the Education Department has said it wants to encourage them to finish and carry out many of the changes proposed in their earlier applications.

Competing states committed to make changes such as improving principal and teacher evaluation systems and turning around under-performing schools. They also were asked to show specifically how they would improve science, technology, engineering and math instruction.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the money was driving dramatic improvements.

"We’ve had broken teacher-evaluation systems in many places, unfortunately for five, or six or seven decades," Duncan said. "You’ve seen more effort there and more movement in a short amount of time than in a long time prior to that, and many states are using Race to the Top resources to do that."

Two other states, South Carolina and California, were also eligible. South Carolina opted not to compete, while California submitted an incomplete application, the Education Department said.

Last week, nine states were announced as winners of a share of $500 million in grants under a similar competition focused on improving early learning programs.

Duncan also said federal officials are monitoring states to ensure that they follow through on their plans to improve schools with Race to the Top money. For example, he said he has warned Hawaii that it’s in danger of losing funding.

"We’re going to look for some pretty significant improvements early in the new year," Duncan said. "There’s not a hard-and-fast date. If we see things turning around, that would be fantastic. If we don’t see things turning around, then we’ve got some tough decisions to make."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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