Colo. named ‘Race to the Top’ finalist

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Colorado is among the states that have been named finalists in the second round of the federal “Race to the Top” school reform grant competition.

The announcement Tuesday by the Department of Education means Colorado has a chance to win a share of $3 billion. Department officials chose 18 states and the District of Columbia as finalists.

States apply for the “Race to the Top” competition and are chosen based on whether they are making reforms to improve struggling schools and close the achievement gap.

One major change to the state’s educational system involved teacher tenure. Colorado lawmakers changed the state’s tenure rules this year, requiring teachers to be evaluated annually.

At least half of a teacher’s rating will now be based on whether their students progressed during the school year. Beginning teachers will have to show they have boosted student achievement for three straight years to earn tenure. Before, teachers simply had to work for three years to gain tenure. Teachers could also lose tenure if their students don’t show progress for two consecutive years.

“We are working hard to win this competition because we want to bring every dollar we can to Colorado to provide a world-class education system for our children so they have the tools to succeed in the 21st century workforce,” said Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who signed the legislation changing the state’s tenure rules.

The state’s largest teacher’s union, which has favored Democrats, opposed the legislation.

The winners of the second phase of the competition will be announced in September. Delaware and Tennessee were the first-round winners.

- Associated Press