The U.S. Department of Education announced today proposed criteria for the 2012 Race to the Top programa nearly $400 million competition that invites school districts to create plans for individualized classroom instruction aimed at closing achievement gaps and preparing each student for college and career.
"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.
"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.
Race to the Top (RTT), launched in 2009, has inspired dramatic education reform nationwide, leading 46 states to pursue higher standards, data-driven decisions making, greater support for teachers, and turnaround interventions in persistently low-performing schools. The next phase proposes to build on those principles at the classroom level, supplying teachers with the strategies and tools they need to help every student learn at his or her own pace.
The proposed 2012 program criteria invites applications from districts or groups of districts serving at least 2,500 students with 40 percent or more qualifying for free or reduced price lunch. Districts will choose to apply for funding to support learning strategies that personalize education in all or a set of schools, within specific grade levels, or select subjects.
Eligibility, as outlined in the proposed criteria, will be determined by a district's demonstrated commitment to RTT's four core reform areas. Applicants from all districts will be invited to apply. The criteria has been designed to ensure no district is at a disadvantageincluding those already participating in a RTT grant awarded through one of the first three phases, districts not currently participating, and rural districts. Awards will range from $15 million to $25 million, depending on the population of students served through the plan.
As proposed, applicants will be selected based on their vision and capacity for reform as well as a strong plan that provides classrooms and teachers with the resources to prepare students for college and career. Districts must effectively engage and collaborate with teachers, parents and outside organizations to create their plan and provide assistance to ensure a successful transition to proposed reforms. Plans will focus on transforming instruction so that it meets all students' learning abilities. Teachers will track and receive real-time data and information that helps them adapt their lessons and individualize instruction to accommodate the differences among their students.
The Race to the Top district-level competition will encourage transformative change within schools, targeted toward leveraging, enhancing, and improving classroom practices and resources. School leaders will have the ability and flexibility to strategize how best to use time, staff the school, and manage the school budget.
Teachers will have resources inside and outside the classroom that help them build on their talent and offer tools and ideas to improve their day-to-day work. School staff will work collaboratively to grow each teacher's instructional skillset by leveraging the support and skills of their colleagues. And all students will have equal access to high-quality learning materials inside and outside of class, be challenged to demonstrate learning before transitioning to new material, and know where he or she stands in a given subject based on performance data.
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.
To read or comment on the Race to the Top district-level proposal, visit http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition. Public Comment ends June 8. The Department plans to release the application in July with an October submission deadline. Awards will be announced no later than Dec. 31, 2012.