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Surprise! New York a finalist in Race to the Top contest

In a shocker, New York State has been named a finalist in the federal competition for Race to the Top funds, which could net the state up to $700 million.

The announcement comes as a welcome surprise to state officials, who have said they weren’t holding out hope that New York would make the cut after legislators failed to allow more charter schools to open. Observers had also speculated that a legal barrier to using student test scores as a factor in teacher tenure decisions could also reduce the state’s chances.

Making the shortlist means New York earned enough points on Race to the Top’s formula to put it in the top 16 of 41 applicants. But the state still isn’t guaranteed any of the grant funds: State officials still have to present their reform plans to federal reviewers in two weeks. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will make the final call on winners next month.

The other state finalists are Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee.

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