From Electronic Education Report, January 3, 2014
The Department of Education in December awarded $120 million to five grantees in the second round of its district-level Race to the Top competition. The winners are:
- Clarendon County School District Two (consortium of four rural districts), South Carolina, $25 million;
- Clarksdale Municipal School District, Mississippi, $10 million;
- Houston Independent School District, Texas, $30 million;
- Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (consortium of 18 rural districts), $30 million;
- Springdale School District, Arkansas, $25.9 million.
The grants are to be spread over four years and were based on the schools’ plan to improve teachers’ effectiveness, prepare students for life after high school and turn around specific challenges in their districts, such as high absenteeism or low graduation rates. The grants set aside money to improve schools’ technology and to teach educators how to customize curriculum based on students’ interests.
In Houston, the grant will help the district expand its program to give every high school student a laptop and to provide more opportunities for project-based learning.
Houston also will work to have students earn associate’s degree before graduating from high school and emphasize career training. The goal is to graduate 2,000 students each year, or about 17.5% of the current graduating class, with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.
Houston Superintendent Terry Grier was one of a number of superintendents from districts in states that passed on the state-level RTT competition who lobbied for a district-level competition.
The Springdale school district with about 21,000 students has one-tenth the enrollment of Houston but shares some goals and plans.
Over the next three years, Springdale plans to provide each student with a personal computer and the district also has a plan to graduate students with an associate’s degree along with a high school diploma.
Springdale will be adding five Environmental and Space Technology labs, increasing Pre-K classes, creating a Parent Academy and initiating learning communities as the grant money becomes available.
Cooperation across districts is another goal of RTT and is exemplified in the plans of four diverse school district in South Carolina led by Clarendon County School District Two.
Clarendon, along with fiscal agent Richland County School District Two, Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five, and Williamsburg County School District have committed to working together for seven years: four years of grant implementation and three years beyond the grant to ensure long-term sustainability and viability.
Their plans target 19 high-need, high-poverty, and low- performing schools serving 11,957 students with potential to impact 41,183 students in 65 schools across the four districts.
Participating schools will work to deliver individualized student-driven learning through increased use of technology with support for teachers and administrators and efforts to engage parents and community stakeholders in the process.
This year’s district-level RTT grantees were selected from 31 finalists, representing 80 school districts across 21 states. The Department received more than 200 applications for the competition.•