Individual school districts are being invited by the Department of Education to apply to compete for a chunk of the $120 million Race to the Top fund that will go towards classroom-level education reform efforts. This will be the second time that Race to the Top competition considered applications by districts, with RTTT first considering applications from states only.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that money will help districts adopt innovative programs that will improve education outcomes for children not only throughout their academic careers but into college and beyond. The program launched in 2009, and the Race to the Top – District was announced for the first time in 2012.
In 2012, the Department rolled out Race to the Top-District to support bold, locally directed improvements in learning and teaching. The program sets a high bar to fund those districts that have a track record of success, clear vision for reform, and innovative plans to transform the learning environment and accelerate student achievement. The Department awarded approximately $383 million to 16 Race to the Top-District grantees representing 55 local educational agencies (LEAs), with grants ranging from $10 to $40 million.
This year, potential applicants are being asked to submit ideas for creating a more personalized learning environment for their students. The application process is open to all districts and the DOE plans to select winning proposals from a cross-section of districts including those in rural, suburban and large urban areas. Winners will qualify for four-year grants totaling between $4 million and $30 million, depending on the number of students.
Grantees will be selected based on their vision and capacity for reform as well as a strong plan that provides educators with resources to accelerate student achievement and prepare students for college and their careers. Plans will focus on transforming the learning environment so that it meets all students’ learning abilities, making equity and access to high-quality education a priority. Teachers will receive real-time feedback that helps them adapt to their students’ needs, allowing them to create opportunities for students to pursue areas of personal academic interest—while ensuring that each student is ready for college and their career.
The program also offers competitive preference to applicants that form partnerships with public and private organizations to offer services that help meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs, outside of the classroom.
Winners of past Race to the Top competitions are spread out across 46 states and the District of Columbia.