Expect to hear a lot in the next two weeks about states racing to qualify for the first round of federal Race to the Top grants, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm this week signed into law a sweeping series of education bills that give the state new power to close failing schools, fire bad teachers and administrators, and measure if students are moving ahead. Along with improving its schools, the changes are designed to better position Michigan to win the federal dollars. According to the U.S. Department of Education, states seeking Race to the Top dollars will be judged on four specific areas: (1) adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy; (2) building data systems that measure student growth and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction; (3) recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and (4) turning around their lowest-achieving schools. Michigan is hopeful that its new laws will satisfy these federal criteria…

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staff and wire services reports