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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today that Delaware and Tennessee have won grants in the first phase of the Race to the Top competition. Illinois place fifth in the competition and did not receive a grant in the first phase.

The federal Race to the Top program is a competitive, $4.35 billion education program designed to encourage and reward states that are promoting education reform.

“We received many strong proposals from states all across America, but two applications stood out above all others: Delaware and Tennessee,” Secretary Duncan said in announcing the winners. “Both states have statewide buy-in for comprehensive plans to reform their schools. They have written new laws to support their policies. And they have demonstrated the courage, capacity, and commitment to turn their ideas into practices that can improve outcomes for students.”

Delaware will receive approximately $100 million and Tennessee $500 million to implement their comprehensive school reform plans over the next four years.

The U.S. Department of Education will have about $3.4 billion available for the second phase of the Race to the Top competition. Applications for Phase 2 of Race to the Top are due on June 1, 2010.

Both School Districts 65 and 202 signed onto the State of Illinois’ application for a grant under the Race to the Top competition.