If you're following Race to the Top events, you might want to read my take on the big recent developments here .

In his analysis , Mike is right that the application guidelines are a bit heavy-handed in places. But did he really expect the Department to offer $4.35 billion to the states without very specific directions? Had it done so, Mike and others would have pilloried the administration for opening the door to a lot of wasteful spending.

I think Mike's preferred method--asking states to pursue their own best ideas with lots of federal money--has a name: "The pre-NCLB era where the status quo was preserved, adult interests were served, and the achievement gap flourished."

However, Mike and I agree that there are a number of very good ideas in the guidelines and that the Department's posture suggests that it knows exactly what will solve America's K-12 problems (on this point, see also Secretary Duncan's frequent refrain that we don't need more ideas, we just need courage) . More self-skepticism is warranted here, I believe.

With that said, I give the Department credit for its work; there's a good bit to like in what they did. I get into both the good and the bad, including what I call "Blinking on Eligibility," "The New 'Other' Option," and "Trojan Horse Applications."

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