Tuesday, May 22, 2012

U.S. Department of Education Announces Race to the Top Grants for Districts

The U.S. Department of Education announced today the opportunity for local school districts to apply for federal Race to the Top grants.

In 2010, states had the opportunity to apply for these federal grants to encourage reform efforts in states across the nation. Idaho applied in the first round, but chose not to apply in the second round. Idaho accomplished most of what it applied for in its Race to the Top application by passing the Students Come First reform laws in 2011 – without the one-time funding or oversight from the federal government.

Now, local school districts have the opportunity to apply for Race to the Top grants on their own or to partner with other school districts to apply for these grants.

The U.S. Department of Education today released a draft executive summary of the application process and is requesting feedback from local school districts and other educational stakeholders. It plans to obligate this grant funding before December 31, 2012.

Many of the requirements outlined in the Race to the Top – District Program are aligned with Students Come First, including higher academic standards, incentives for teachers and principals, evaluations tied to student performance, more technology and data in the classroom, and increased transparency at the district level.

Here is an overview of the Race to the Top – District Program:
  • Local Education Agencies (LEAs) – local school districts or charter schools authorized by the Idaho Public Charter School Commission – are eligible to apply for grants on their own or as part of a consortium of LEAs. LEAs can join with LEAs in other states to apply.
  • An LEA (or consortia) must serve at least 2,500 students a year to apply. If not, it must join with other LEAs to apply. At least 40% of the students the LEA plans to serve through the grant must qualify as low-income.
  • The LEA (or consortia) can apply on behalf of all schools in the district, or can apply on behalf of just some schools, some grade levels, some subject areas, some student groups, etc.
  • The LEA (or consortia) must demonstrate it will meet the following core education assurance 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 success, 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 our lowest-achieving schools.
  • The LEA (or consortia) must have a plan to implement teacher, principal, superintendent, and school board evaluation systems that meet the U.S. Department of Education’s definitions. All must be tied to student achievement or performance.
  • The LEA (or consortia) must get signatures from the superintendent, school board, and union president.
  • The State Department of Education must have the opportunity to review and comment on an LEA’s (or consortia’s) application before it is submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. 
  • An LEA (or consortia) serving up to 5,000 students may apply for up to $20 million. Districts serving up to 9,999 students may apply for up to $22 million. Districts serving more than 10,000 students may apply for up to $25 million.
Read more about the Race to the Top – District Program and provide your feedback.

~ Melissa M.

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