The U.S. Department of Education announced today that it has finalized the application for the 2012 Race to the Top-District competition, which will provide nearly $400 million to support school districts in implementing local reforms that will personalize learning, close achievement gaps and take full advantage of 21st century tools that prepare each student for college and their careers. 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.
“Race to the Top helped bring about groundbreaking education reforms in states across the country. Building off that success, we're now going to help support reform at the local level with the new district competition,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We want to help schools become engines of innovation through personalized learning so that every child in America can receive the world-class public education they deserve. The Race to the Top-District competition will help us meet that goal.”
Race to the Top, launched in 2009, has inspired dramatic education reform nationwide, leading 45 states and the District of Columbia to pursue higher college- and career-ready standards, data-driven decision making, greater support for teachers and leaders, and turnaround interventions in low performing schools. The next phase proposes to build on those principles at the classroom level to support bold, locally directed improvements in learning and teaching that will directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness.
The Race to the Top-District competition invites applicants to demonstrate how they can personalize education for all students and is aimed squarely at classrooms and the all-important relationship between teachers and students. The competition will encourage transformative change within schools, providing school leaders and teachers with key tools and support in order to best meet their students’ needs.
The Department received about 475 public comments on the draft notice it shared in May. The 2012 final program criteria invites applications from districts or groups of districts proposing to serve at least 2,000 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. In addition, a districts must demonstrate a commitment to Race to the Top’s four core reform areas and have signoff on their plan from the district superintendent or CEO, local school board president, and local teacher union or association president (where applicable) in order to be eligible.
Applicants from all districts are invited to apply. The Department plans to support high-quality proposals from applicants across a variety of districts, including rural and non-rural as well as those already participating in a Race to the Top state grant and districts not participating. These 4-year awards will range from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the population of students served through the plan. The Department is expecting to make 15-25 awards.
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 sustain their work and offer services that help meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs, as well as enhance their ability to succeed.
More information, including the finalized application for the Race to the Top-District competition, can be found at: www.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-district. The Department is requesting interested districts to submit their intent to apply by Aug. 30, and will offer webinars and conference calls over the coming weeks to provide technical assistance. Applications are due Oct. 30, with awards being announced no later than Dec. 31, 2012.