Paul Teske is Dean and University of Colorado Distinguished Professor at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver. These views represent the personal opinions of the author and may not reflect the position of the University of Colorado Denver or the University of Colorado system.

When Colorado failed in both rounds of the federal Race to the Top competition, there was much discussion and gnashing of teeth about why we didn’t win.  Ultimately, the raters scored us lower than several other states, and we didn’t make the cut.

As painful as that was, and damaging for funding the implementation of our Colorado reform efforts, the much-discussed new book by Steven Brill, Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools, apparently highlights some interesting insider discussions in DC.

This comes from the Politics K12 blog from Ed Week’s Michele McNeil and  Alyson Klein. (see their August 23 and August 18 posts).

They read the book and also interviewed Steven Brill.  McNeil writes:

“Louisiana and Colorado take heart: Senior staff members at the U.S. Department of Education really wanted you to win the Race to the Top. So much, that when the round-two scores came in, and your states were inexplicably scored out of the winners’ circle, the staff was in a “near-panic,” while Education Secretary Arne Duncan was “surprised and upset.”

“There are problems. … Big problems,” then-Race to the Top Director Joanne Weiss told Duncan when the scores came in, writes journalist Steven Brill (paraphrasing Weiss’ comments) in his new book, Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools.

The Education Department staff chewed over whether Duncan should handpick the winners, choosing out of order and probably skipping Hawaii, whose high score was called “bizarre” by two senior staff members, and maybe New York, whose second-place finish was a “shocker.” (That option was quickly nixed.) Staff members debated whether to cut the grants down to just three years, versus four, so they could fund more proposals. They also debated trimming funding drastically for each state, by as much as 40 percent, so the awards could reach as far down as Louisiana and Colorado (which ranked 13th and 17th, respectively).

As we know, Duncan decided to stick with the top 10 scorers as determined by the outside peer reviewers, leaving ed-reform darlings Louisiana and Colorado behind.”

Bad luck indeed for Colorado.  There is more information about the concerns and constraints in the scoring process in their posts.