California schools chiefs compete for Race to the Top dollars

It was show time in Washington, D.C. this week for California education leaders. They competed with 18 other states for federal Race to the Top education grants. The team had 30 minutes to present its case and an hour to defend it.

The last time California competed for Race to the Top dollars, it finished in 27th place.

This time, the team enlisted local school superintendents Ramon Cortines of Los Angeles Unified and Chris Steinhauser of Long Beach.

They spent more than 100 hours preparing for the 90-minute presentation.

California’s education secretary Bonnie Reiss says they studied what ad worked for winners in the first round.

"All their presentations were posted on YouTube," Reiss said. "So part of our prep was reviewing that."

The key, says Reiss, was convincing federal officials that with the money, California can use data to help identify talented teachers and teaching methods that work.

Using good data can identify inspiring educators.

"Certain teachers were doing incredibly well with teaching the kids in math and in English and in science and they modeled that and then that teacher became a mentor teacher and they used them as coaches and student improvement went up across the board," she said.

This time, the California team also got cooperation from teachers unions on methods to measure teacher effectiveness.

There’s a lot at stake: California could get $700 million dollars.

The feds will decide which dozen or so states will get the money before the school year begins in most districts next month.

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