The U.S. Department of Education has announced 16 winners who will receive a portion of a $400 million grant fund allocated for district-level education reform plans. The results come on the heels of the Department recently announcing the winners of the second round of the Race to the Top competition, a round of grant funding that aimed to identify and reward effective state-designed plans for improving early childhood education,
The 16 chosen applications, which represent roughly 55 school districts across the country, will share in $400 million in grants to implement the proposals designed to improve student achievement and increase the quality of instruction and teacher effectiveness.
The awards range from $10 million to $40 million and will be distributed over the next four years. The amount of each individual award was determined by how many students are covered in the submitted proposal. In total, the winners were selected based on the score assigned to each proposal by independent peer reviewers. 372 plans were thus assessed, with the 16 best overall scores securing funds.
"Districts have been hungry to drive reform at the local level, and now these winners can empower their school leaders to pursue innovative ideas where they have the greatest impact: in the classroom," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "The Race to the Top-District grantees have shown tremendous leadership though developing plans that will transform the learning environment and enable students to receive a personalized, world-class education."
The character of the districts chosen couldn't have been more diverse. Some district-level proposals came from states that have already won some Race to the Top money — and from states whose proposals fell short. The plan that covered the largest number of individual districts came from a 24-member rural consortium, which alone represented 44% of the districts that will receive grant money in this funding round.
The Race to the Top program, which launched in 2009, was created to push education systems around the country to pursue out-of-the-box reform efforts in order to improve academic outcomes for their students and to ensure that a greater number of them are prepared at graduation to enter college or succeed in the workplace.
"Since the day he took office, President Obama has been laser-focused on the goal of ensuring that every child has access to a quality education," said Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Cecilia MuÃ±oz. "Race to the Top exemplifies this commitment and marks an historic moment in American education, raising the bar and improving outcomes for schools across the United States."