The US Department of Education has announced proposed criteria for 2012's Race to the Top program. The program will be a $400 million competition where school districts create plans for individualized classroom instruction directed at closing achievement gaps and enhancing student post-school preparation.
"Today, we're taking the next step forward. We're announcing a new Race-to the Top competition for school districts that is aimed squarely at the classroom level and the all-important relationship among teachers and students," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
The 2012 criteria invite applications from districts serving at least 2,500 students, or a group of districts serving at least this number, where at least 40% qualify for the reduced price lunch program. Plans should be focused on transforming instruction to meet all students' learning abilities. Eligibility will be determined by the district's demonstration of commitment to the four core reform areas targeted by RTT. These are: Developing effective teachers and leaders; improving the lowest achieving schools; expanding student data systems; and enhancing standards and assessments. Taken together these four areas account for 90% of RTT grants with the primary focus being on the development of effective teacher and leaders.
"With this competition, we are inviting districts to show us how they can personalize education for a set of students in their schools. We need to take classroom learning beyond a one-size-fits-all model and bring it into the 21st century," Duncan said.
RTT launched in 2009 and the Department of Education claim that is has inspired dramatic education reform nationwide and been the primary cause of 46 states pursuing higher standards and data-driven decision making. Their stated aim is for the next stage of the program to build on the existing success and provide each teacher with the tools and learning strategies necessary to aid every student learn at their own pace. It is claimed that the district-level program will encourage transformative change within schools and that districts will effectively engage and collaborate with teachers, parents and third-party organizations to create the plan.
The proposal offers competitive preference to applicants that form partnerships with public and private organizations to sustain their work and offer services that help meet students' academic, social, and emotional needs, and enhance their ability to succeed.
The Department of Education will release the application in July for an October deadline. Successful awards will be announced by the end of the calender year. Awards will range from $15 million to $25 million with the amount depending on the population of students served through the plan.