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NC set in 'Race' for federal grants

North Carolina is keen on getting a piece of the $4 billion the federal government will give states that show that they are interested in school innovations that improve education.

The grant, a program called "Race to the Top" represents "an incredible opportunity, especially in these economic times," Bill Harrison, chairman of the State Board of Education, said Monday.

About 150 people, including state Department of Public Instruction staff, academics from the universities, representatives from Gov. Beverly Perdue's office, foundations, nonprofits, professional organizations, and local school districts have done some work getting the state ready to apply for the money, Lynn Bonner reports.

With all the interest, the state board will consider changing a policy on teacher evaluations that could kick North Carolina out of the running.

The state board will talk today about altering or rescinding a policy prohibiting local school districts from using a measure of teacher effectiveness in their evaluations.
According to the grant eligibility requirements, states cannot prohibit linking information on student achievement or student growth to teacher or principals' evaluations.

Another state law, the one capping public charters at 100 schools, could hurt the state's chances.

Federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan has repeatedly said that states with limits on charter schools will be at a "competitive disadvantage" when it comes to getting money.

House and Senate Republicans made raising the charter cap a priority in this year's legislative session. A bill to raise the cap stalled in the Senate.

More after the jump.

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Last week, Perdue, Harrison, state school superintendent June Atkinson and the heads of state education associations wrote Duncan last week objecting to the emphasis on charters as a "the major tool for innovation," and highlighting the state's early colleges, the virtual public school and other changes to traditional public schools it has embraced.

"After reviewing the proposed guidelines for the Race to the Top grant awards, we want to urge you to reexamine the proposed criterion and give broader flexibility and latitude to states that encourages rather than restricts innovation in the classroom," they wrote.

Glenn Kleiman, Executive Director, Friday Institute for Educational Innovation and a professor at N.C. State University, said up to 15 states will win grants, and only about 3 to 5 will get money in the first phase.


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