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        U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today that 19 states are the finalists for more than $3 billion available in the second round of federal funding in the Race to the Top program. Illinois is one of the finalists. 

        “Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia submitted bold blueprints for reform that bear the signatures of many key players at the state and local level who drive change in our schools,” Mr. Duncan said.

         “Peer reviewers identified these 19 finalists as having the boldest plans, but every state that applied will benefit from this process of collaboratively creating a comprehensive education reform agenda,” Mr. Duncan added. “Much of the federal dollars we distribute though other channels can support their plan to raise standards, improve teaching, use data more effectively to support student learning, and turn around underperforming schools.”   

      “Advance Illinois is thrilled that Illinois is a finalist in Round 2 of the federal Race to the Top competition,” said Robin Steans, Executive Director, Advance Illinois, an organization that has advocated educational reform in Illinois. “We think this reflects hard and smart work on the part of the state and its partners, and builds on our 5th-place finish in Round One.”

        “Since the Race to the Top competition was announced, Illinois’ education community has kept its nose to the grindstone and used this opportunity to think seriously  about how to better prepare the next generation,” added Ms. Steans. “I’m pleased to see this recognition from the federal government and Secretary Duncan for the state’s efforts. We’re all hoping for a grant, but regardless of the outcome, the state now has an ambitious plan in place. That makes us winners already.”      

      The finalists will travel to Washington during the week of Aug. 9 to present their plans to the peer reviewers who scored their applications. After the state’s presentations and an extended question-and-answer period, the peer reviewers will finalize their scores and comments.        

      The Department intends to announce the winners of the competition in September. Mr. Duncan acknowledged that not all of the finalists would be awarded grants from the almost $3.4 billion remaining in Race to the Top.