Race to the Top District Competition Announced

May 23rd, 2012

Category: News

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the next bold incentive for comprehensive education reform: the Race to the Top District competition (RTT-D).  $400 million in grants will be awarded to locally targeted improvements in teaching and learning that will directly improve student achievement and teacher effectiveness.  More specifically, this competition is intended to pointedly improve teaching and learning through the personalization of strategies, tools, and supports for teachers and students that align with college and career ready standards.  Schools will be rewarded for individualizing student learning and moving away from a “one-size-fits-all” model of schooling.

Approximately 15 to 20 awards will be given, at roughly $15-$25 million per award. The application will be released in July and grant winners are expected to be announced by the end of December 2012.

Applicants will be asked to address the “four assurances” consistent with the first Race to the Top competition: teacher quality, turning around low-performing schools, boosting data quality, and improving standards and assessments.  In addition, “competitive preference priority” will be given to applicants who integrate public and private resources to harness core school resources by providing additional student and family supports.  Points will be given to applicants who form coherent and sustainable partnerships with organizations such as public health, after school, social service providers; businesses, philanthropies, civic groups, community based organizations; early learning programs; and post-secondary institutions.

Opportunities for Delaware

RTT-D presents another exciting opportunity for Delaware. RTT-D funding would piggy-back on the past two RTT initiatives by improving teaching and learning in Delaware through a laser-focused, district and school-driven personalization of strategies, tools, and supports.  This personalization could take several forms, from the creation of “personalized learning plans” to  track student progress, data and career goals to increase student graduation rates, or a “blended learning model” in which traditional face-to-face student-teacher interaction is augmented with digital learning, meeting the unique needs of all students, including those with special needs.

The Consortia Approach

RTT-D is open to all public schools and districts, regardless of whether or not they are current recipients of prior RTT funds.  Eligible LEAs or consortia must have at least 2,500 students to apply and at least 40% of participating students across all participating schools must be from low-income families, based on eligibility for free and reduced lunch vouchers. Currently, Delaware has 168 public elementary, middle, and high schools where at least 40% of the students from low-income families, based on free and reduced lunch vouchers.  That represents 63% of all the public elementary, middle, and high schools in the state.  Approximately 66% of Delaware’s LEAs, alone, are not eligible for RTT-D unless they create a consortia.  This includes 100% of the charter schools in Delaware.

The good news is that the idea to create education consortia is not a new one in Delaware.  This is evident through the Vision Network, an association of schools working to accelerate student achievement through improved leadership. Much like the Vision Network, RTT-D allows small schools, districts, and charters the ability to pool their resources, learn from each other, and work together to create personalized learning environments for their students.

Forming consortia to address cohorts of schools may allow for leaner, more sustainable systems of professional development, as well as the sharing of resources, such as improvements to student data systems.  Moreover, these consortia may group together on areas they have in common (e.g. a charter school consortia, an special education consortia, a rural school consortia) to drive unique school and student-based initiatives that address the specific needs of their student populations.

Once again, Delaware finds itself positioned favorably in another federal competition. Our size has already created opportunity to embrace the consortia approach, and our previous wins have paved the road for future success. And once again, it will be up to all of us to make sure we make the most of yet another wonderful opportunity to strengthen Delaware’s public education system.




Author:
Matthew Korobkin

mkorobkin@rodelfoundationde.org

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