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RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina was one of 18 states and the District of Columbia named as finalists in the second round of the federal competition on Tuesday, giving the state a chance to receive a share of $3.4 billion to boost school reform and student achievement.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan named the 19 finalists during a speech at the National Press Club on Tuesday, saying that judges selected these particular states as having “the boldest plans” for reform.

They earned the highest scores from reviewers who rated their commitments to improve teacher effectiveness, data systems, academic standards and low-performing schools, according to Duncan in a prepared release.

North Carolina’s remaining competition include: Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

“To be selected as one of only 19 finalists out of a pool of 41 is tremendous recognition of the work we are doing here in North Carolina to ensure that all of our children have access to the best possible public education,” said Gov. Bev. Perdue.
Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia submitted applications for Round 2 in June.

Independent observers predicted that North Carolina would be selected as a finalist again because of the state’s strong showing in Round 1, where Delaware and Tennessee were the only two winners. North Carolina had applied for almost $470 million in Race to the Top money in that round.

The Race to the Top program, part of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus law, will provide $4.35 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to states that are implementing ambitious reforms aimed at improving struggling schools and closing the achievement gap.

Nearly every state in the country has applied for a slice of the money between both rounds of the competition. Many passed significant reform laws that allowed for the development of more charter schools and tightened teacher accountability and tenure requirements in order to increase their chances of winning a grant.

Nine of the states that submitted applications last time did not reapply in Round 2.

The finalists named this week will send teams to Washington the week of Aug. 9 to make presentations to judges, who will then adjust states’ final grades based on how well they answer detailed questions about their applications.

Winners will be announced in late August or September.

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