Five Big Winners in Race to the Top-District Competition

The US Department of Education announced in December that five applicants would be granted nearly $120 million in the second round of the Race to the Top-District (RTT-D) competition, which aims to personalize education for all students in the classroom. The program is aimed squarely at classrooms and the all-important relationship between educators and students.

The FY 2013 winners were selected from 31 finalists out of the more than 200 applications received by the Department. They are:

  • Clarendon County School District Two in South Carolina (consortium of four rural districts)
  • Clarksdale Municipal School District in Mississippi
  • Houston Independent School District in Texas
  • Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (consortium of 18 rural districts)
  • Springdale School District in Arkansas

“These winners serve as an example to the rest of the country for how to develop innovative plans to drive education reform and improve student achievement,” said US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These diverse, trailblazing districts have a clear vision and track record of success for models of personalized learning that aim for every child to graduate from high school ready for college and careers.”

According to the Department’s press release, grantees were 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.

NASSP State Coordinator Danny Brackett is the principal of Har-Ber High School in Springdale, Arkansas, and said that educators were “PUMPED” upon hearing the announcement of their $25.8 million award. “We’re excited that we have a chance to positively influence the instruction of all 1,300 teachers in our district and all 21,000 students.”

The Springdale Public Schools will implement instructional strategies that engage and empower students and has identified 11 projects to accelerate student achievement, close the experience gap, and deepen student learning. Many of their goals are aligned to NASSP’s Breaking Ranks framework for school improvement, including additional advisory time for college and career planning and personalized learning plans for each student. The district is also planning to emphasize the use of technology and expand its existing career academies to align with external standards and college entrance requirements.

The district’s plan is also focused on professional development with an assurance that all school leaders and leadership teams will receive training on the new systems put in place designed to support college and career readiness. Collaborative planning time will be expanded to allow participating teachers to engage in student-centered conversations in professional learning communities focused on effective implementation of personalized learning environments. The use of an existing data dashboard and student-centered model will foster increased opportunities for staff to use data to inform their instructional approaches and consider individual student needs.

More information about the Race to the Top-District program and the FY 2013 winners can be found on the Department’s Web site.

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