The U.S. Department of Education has released the final requirements for Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) grant applications, a program designed to improve classroom instruction and teaching to directly impact student learning.
These grants will distribute nearly $400 million directly to school districts for programs that support teaching and learning and the goals of the Race to the Top state grants. The department is expected to award 15 to 25 grants ranging from $5 million to $40 million.
Qualifying school districts must serve at least 2,000 students with 40 percent or more qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, or join with other districts that meet this qualification. Grants will support learning strategies that personalize education in all or a group of schools, within specific grade levels, or select subjects. Districts also must demonstrate a commitment to Race to the Top’s four core reform areas and the district superintendent or CEO, local school board president, and local teacher union president (or 70 percent of teachers in districts without collective bargaining) must sign off on the plan.
The department will conduct technical assistance webinars for school officials on Aug. 16 and Aug. 21, 2012. Registration for the webinars is available at the Race to the Top website.
School boards should first evaluate the work needed to apply for the grant and the likelihood of receiving an award, advised Michael A. Resnick, the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy.
NSBA submitted extensive comments on the draft requirements for the RTT-D program urging federal officials to articulate and preserve local school board authority. NSBA’s lobbying efforts resulted in a big win for local school boards when a requirement that grantees evaluate local school boards was deleted. Other provisions – such as required 10-day comment period for state education agencies and mayors – may prove too onerous for school districts, according to Resnick.
School districts and consortia interested in applying must notify the agency of their intent by Aug. 30, 2012. The deadline for applications is Oct. 30, 2012 and grant awards will be made by the end of this year. More information about the RTT-D Program is on the department’s website.
According to the department, “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.”