A closer look at Illinois’ Race to the Top plan

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Illinois and more than 20 other states have posted their entire Race to the Top (RT3) applications online—thousands of pages of school reform blueprints that are competing for a slice of $4.3 billion in federal stimulus grants.

Illinois and more than 20 other states have posted their entire Race to the Top (RT3) applications online—thousands of pages of school reform blueprints that are competing for a slice of $4.3 billion in federal stimulus grants.

If bonus points were awarded for length, Illinois’ bid—178 pages long, plus 638 pages in supporting documentation—would likely net at least a portion of the $510 million sought by Gov. Pat Quinn and other state leaders. It’s not that simple, of course. The application will be scored against a complicated rubric that considers existing state laws and how well the overall plan adheres to Education Sec. Arne Duncan’s federal reform agenda. The agenda generally encourages school turnarounds, common learning standards, robust data collection and a dramatic shift in how educators are evaluated.

An estimated 10 to 20 states will eventually win grants. The first wave of winners will be announced in April after a series of “interviews” before a federal panel of evaluators in March. States that end up out of the money will get a chance to revamp their applications for a second round of vetting this summer.

Insiders had predicted that Illinois would be forced to resubmit for the second wave of funding, but a flurry of 11th-hour legislation has dramatically boosted the Prairie State’s odds. Moreover, Illinois has established a relatively unified front around its proposed reforms. For example,, both the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Education Association have signed letters of support for the plan.

More than 100 teachers union locals also signed letters of support for the bid, a feat that proved difficult for some states like Florida, where few signed on. (The Chicago Teachers Union did not sign a letter of support.)

No time to wade through 800 pages? The governor’s office sent Catalyst this one-page fact sheet highlighting key elements of Illinois’ bid.