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Arizona in line for big education grant

By Howard Fischer

Phoenix, AZ – The state's top education official said Thursday Arizona has a
good chance of snaring a share of a 4 billion dollar federal
grant. But there may be a snag.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the purpose behind the
Race to the Top program is to reward states that have systems
designed to improve student learning. Duncan said one factor his
agency will consider in reviewing applications is whether states
have a system that links academic performance to teacher
evaluations and pay.

"We can't move forward with reforms if we continue with
evaluation systems that give 99 percent of teachers satisfactory
ratings and don't exact consequences or rewards to their
evaluations. We believe that talent matters tremendously."

State School Superintendent Tom Horne said Arizona does have much
of what Duncan wants, including a system for testing student
progress and a teacher development program. But the system in
place for awarding performance pay may fall short.

"Right now many districts, not all districts, some districts do
tie it to individual performance. But there are other districts
that do it based on group performance. And that, to me, is not

He said the system allows districts to reward the performance
money they get from the state to every teacher in every school
that meets standards -- standards each district sets for itself.
Duncan said the first grants will be announced in the spring.