The Race to the Top program, part of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan, rewards states for taking up ambitious changes to improve struggling schools.

The Race to the Top program, part of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan, rewards states for taking up ambitious changes to improve struggling schools.

More than 13 million students and 1 million educators will share $3.4 billion from the second round of the federal “Race to the Top” grant competition, the U.S. Education Department (ED) said on Aug. 24.

The department chose nine states–Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island–and the District of Columbia for the grants. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said 25,000 schools will get money to raise student learning and close the achievement gap.

The Race to the Top program, part of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, rewards states for taking up ambitious changes to improve struggling schools. The competition instigated a wave of reforms across the country, as states passed new teacher accountability policies and lifted caps on charter schools to boost their chances of winning.

“These states show what is possible when adults come together to do the right thing for children,” Duncan said in a conference call with reporters. “Every state that applied showed a tremendous amount of leadership and a bold commitment to education reform. The creativity and innovation in each of these applications is breathtaking.”

In the first round of the contest in the spring, just two states were winners–Tennessee and Delaware–and they scored more than 440 out of a possible 500 points. In this round, Duncan said all 10 winners scored more than 440 points, showing improvement in the applications.

He said the department wanted to choose more winners but “simply ran out of money.”

For the winners, the grants mean a cash infusion at a time when education funding is dwindling, forcing teacher layoffs and program reductions. The awards range from $75 million for Rhode Island and D.C. to $700 million for New York.

“While this has seemed more like a marathon at times, now the real race begins,” said Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, whose state is getting $400 million. “This is truly a unique opportunity to implement a Georgia-created plan that will accelerate our work in improving student achievement.”

Georgia came in third in the first round of the $4.35 billion competition in March, losing out to Tennessee and Delaware, which are sharing $600 million. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia applied for the second round of the competition, and ED named 19 finalists in July.

The applicants named winners on Aug. 24 will share $3.4 billion. Another $350 million is coming in a separate competition for states creating new academic assessments.

One notable absence on the list of winners was Colorado, which passed a controversial law this year that ties teacher pay to student performance and allows the state to strip tenure from low-performing instructors.

The chairman of the state Board of Education, Bob Schaffer, said the reforms weren’t contingent on Colorado’s application for a $175 million grant.