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Race to the Top Competition Slated to Expand to School Districts
posted by: Alix | August 14, 2012, 08:04 PM   

Expanding upon President Obama's signature education initiative, the U.S. Department of Education announced Sunday that it has finalized the application process for the 2012 Race to the Top-District competition. The school district-specific competitive grant program will provide nearly $400 million to grantees to implement local reforms congruent with Obama administration education goals.

Initially launched in 2009, Race to the Top has spawned dramatic education reform nationwide. Grants have led 45 states and the District of Columbia to pursue state-wide education reform programs, including data-driven decision making, professional development programs for teachers and leaders, and turnaround interventions in chronically low-performing schools. This next phase is designed to build on those principles by offering the grants to school districts instead of entire states. According to administration officials, locally directed improvements in learning and teaching will directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness by addressing local priorities.

"Race to the Top helped bring about groundbreaking education reforms in states across the country. Building off that success, we're now going to help support reform at the local level with the new district competition," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a statement. "We want to help schools become engines of innovation through personalized learning so that every child in America can receive the world-class public education they deserve. The Race to the Top-District competition will help us meet that goal."

The competition invites district applicants to demonstrate how they can personalize education for all students and all U.S. school districts are invited to apply. These four-year awards will range from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the population of students served through the plan. The department is expecting to make 15-25 awards available to applicants.

The education policy community has been on the fence about the continuation of the sometimes controversial program. Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, told the Associated Press that it remains to be seen whether the district-level competition will be incentive enough to persuade districts to enact sweeping education reforms. "It seems that the response from the districts has been somewhat anemic," said Petrilli. "Simply put, there's just much less money at stake than there was for the states."

The Department is requesting interested districts to submit their intent to apply by Aug. 30, and will offer webinars and conference calls over the coming weeks to provide assistance with applying. Applications are due Oct. 30, 2012, with awards being announced no later than Dec. 31, 2012.

Click here to read more about competition requirements.

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