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“The change unleashed by conditioning federal funding on bold and forward-looking state education policies is indisputable,” the Democrats for Education Reform said in a statement. “Under the president’s leadership, local civil rights, child advocacy, business and education reform groups, in collaboration with those state and local teacher unions ready for change, sprung into action to achieve things that they had been waiting and wanting to do for years.”

In a speech announcing the finalists last month, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the change a “quiet revolution.”

Between both rounds of the competition, a total of 46 states and the District of Columbia applied.

While the program has been praised for instigating swift reforms, the competition for many states was an uphill battle, with teacher unions hesitant to sign on to reforms directly tying teacher evaluations to student performance on standardized tests, and education leaders concerned that winning meant giving up too much local control.

Florida was among the states that got resistance from teachers unions in the first round of the competition but won their support after taking a more collaborative approach in round two.

“I think it shows that when the governor brought all the stakeholders together, we came up with an application that was strong and doable,” said Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union. “The Department of Education saw the progress that we made, and I just hope that collaboration and cooperation continues at the local level.”

Other states, such as Indiana, dropped out of the competition because of the lack of union support for the state’s application.

A number of states that did not win the competition said they still planned to proceed with the reforms they had proposed, though they acknowledged change would take place at a slower pace without the financial boost of “Race to the Top.”

Associated Press writers Christine Armario in Miami and Michael Gormley in Albany, N.Y., contributed to this report.