The US DOE is busy making news today, including the announcement that the Fulton County Board of Education, Haralson County School System, Morgan County Charter School System and Rockdale County Public Schools are among 61 applications selected as finalists in the Race to the Top-District competition.
Georgia is already a state Race to the Top winner in the state contest, but these systems submitted applications for a pool of money targeting smaller-scale reforms.
In explaining this district-level contest, US DOE says: The Race to the Top District competition will build on the lessons learned from the State-level competitions and support bold, locally directed improvements in teaching and learning that will directly improve student achievement and teacher effectiveness. More specifically, Race to the Top District will reward those LEAs that have the leadership and vision to implement the strategies, structures and systems of support to move beyond one-size–fits-all models of schooling, which have struggled to produce excellence and equity for all children, to personalized, student-focused approaches to teaching and learning that will use collaborative, data-based strategies and 21st century tools to deliver instruction and supports tailored to the needs and goals of each student, with the goal of enabling all students to graduate college- and career-ready.
If they win, the Georgia districts would receive millions of dollars for specific reforms.
According to US DOE:
The 2012 RTT-D program will provide close to $400 million to support locally developed plans to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare every student for success in college and careers.
The 61 finalists, representing more than 200 school districts, were selected from 372 applications the Department received in November to demonstrate how districts could personalize education for students and provide school leaders and teachers with key tools that support them to meet students’ needs.
“These finalists are setting the curve for the rest of the country with innovative plans to drive education reform in the classroom,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “This competition was designed to support local efforts to close the achievement gap and transform the learning environment in a diverse set of districts, but no matter who wins, children across the country will benefit from the clear vision and track records of success demonstrated by these finalists.”
Race to the Top-District applications were randomly assigned to three-person panels that independently read and scored each application, with independent reviewers’ scores averaged to determine an applicant’s score. The Department arranged the applications in rank order from high to low scores, and determined which were the strongest competitors to invite back based on “natural breaks” – i.e. scoring gaps in the lineup. The top 61 applications were then selected as finalists.
Consistent with the Department’s plan to select high-quality proposals from applications across a variety of districts, the finalists represent a range of districts, both rural and non-rural, from both Race to the Top states and non-Race to the Top states.
The Department expects to select 15-25 winning applications from the Race to the Top-District competition for four-year awards that will range from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the population of students served through the plan. Awards will be announced no later than Dec. 31, 2012.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog