Commentary: California loses Race to the Top first round

There's no sugarcoating the news. California failed to be a finalist in the first round of the competition among the states for federal Race to the Top grants.

Sixteen of 41 states that applied made the first cut, as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Thursday.

At this stage, there's no point in dwelling on failure. There's no time to waste to do the work that will put California in a more competitive position for the second round – with applications due in June.

The states won't know until the first-round winners are announced in April how they scored out of 500 possible points, or what their strengths and weaknesses were.

But as Kathryn Radtkey-Gaither, undersecretary in the governor's Office of Education, said Thursday, California can begin work on legislation it already passed and "ask everyone what they would do to make the application stronger."

In the next three months, California can work harder to bring more school districts and more teachers unions on board. When the application was submitted in mid-January, 804 of the state's 1,729 districts (representing 58 percent of the state's students) had signed on to participate. And of those districts, only 26 percent of teachers unions signed on. California can do better.

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