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States vying for $4.4 billion to make changes in education

North Carolina education officials are gearing up for competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Education. About $4.4 billion dollars in stimulus money is at stake. WFAE's Simone Orendain reports: The so-called "Race to the Top" program is looking for proposals that will show just how much state school systems are willing to change. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters on a conference call, that his department wants rigorous assessments, effective teaching practices, rewards for high performing teachers and a willingness to completely overhaul failing schools. He also said any number of things can take a state out of the running. "States, for example, that limit alternative routes for teachers or principals or cap the number of charter schools or don't hold the charter schools accountable will be at a competitive disadvantage," said Duncan. There are 97 charter schools in the North Carolina and the cap is 100. A law would have to change to remove it. Still, North Carolina Schools Superintendent June Atkinson says the state has a strong application. She says, "We are ahead of so many schools when it comes to longitudinal data systems, to teacher evaluations, to helping struggling schools and we have a great plan in place as it relates to standards and assessments." Atkinson says the governor, the state teachers' association and business leaders are working together on the proposal. It's due at the end of December.