On December 11, 2012, the Education Department announced the 16 winners of the Race to the Top school district grants (RTTD). 61 Finalists had been announced recently out of an original 372 districts that turned in applications in November. A total of $400 million was due to go out, and winners ranged from $10 million to $40 million for a period of four years, depending on the population of the given district. The winners included urban and rural districts, small districts and large consortia, and public and charter schools. The only large, urban school district to win was Miami-Dade (FL), which also just won the Broad Prize.
The winners, by order of total mean score, are as follows:
- Carson City, NV (208.33)
- New Haven Unified, CA (207.67)
- Miami-Dade, FL (207.00)
- Puget Sound Consortium, WA (205.33)
- Guilford County, NC (205.33)
- Metropolitan School District of Warren Township in Indianapolis, IN (205.00)
- IDEA public schools, TX (203.00) [charter schools]
- Charleston County, SC (201.67)
- Harmony Science Academy consortia, TX (201.67) [charter schools]
- St. Vrain Valley, CO (200.33)
- Galt Joint Union, CA (199.67)
- Iredell-Statesville, NC (199.67)
- Middletown City, NY (199.33)
- KIPP, DC (199) [charter schools]
- Green River Regional Education Cooperative, KY (197)
- Lindsay Unified, CA (196.33)
The rankings were based on the evaluations of “independent peer reviewers.”
The grants are designed specifically to target and “support locally developed plans to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare every student to succeed in college and their careers.” The Education Department also released a more detailed explanation of what the grant money will address:
Race to the Top-District plans are tailored to meet the needs of local communities and feature a variety of strategies, including: using technology to personalize learning for each student; giving students opportunities to learn beyond the traditional school day and environment; supporting students’ transitions throughout their education, including from high school to college and careers; expanding partnerships with community organizations to provide students with targeted social services like crisis intervention, individual counseling and life enrichment opportunities; and providing professional development and coursework options to deepen learning in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
The education department was very enthusiastic about the results, especially concerning how diversified the school districts were that won. Arne Duncan, education secretary, commented, “Districts have been hungry to drive reform at the local level, and now these winners can empower their school leaders to pursue innovative ideas where they have the greatest impact: in the classroom. The Race to the Top-District grantees have shown tremendous leadership though developing plans that will transform the learning environment and enable students to receive a personalized, world-class education.” Duncan also tweeted his opinions shortly after the results were released: “Race to the Top sparked as much reform in some states that didn’t receive funds as in those that did-a trend we want to see continue. We had many more great RTTD applicants than money. We hope districts will move aggressively forward with their RTTD blueprints.”
Questions certainly remain, however, especially about the process by which the decisions were made.
Several districts that had been listed in the previously released top 61 finalists did not finish in the overall top 61 when each of the scores is ranked. The Education Department has not yet explained if the finalists were re-scored before a final determination was made. In particular, Baltimore, which had been one of the 61 finalists, finished in 109th place. Lane County School District 4J, OR wasn’t a finalist but ended in 52nd.
Of the 16 winners, only 5 are from states that originally won Race to the Top money, and nearly all of the large, urban school districts lost. Some of the city districts that applied and lost include Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Nashville, New York City, Newark, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. Finally, the only two districts that won top dollar ($40 million) were for consortia of schools.
For more information, please visit these two links from the Education Department:
Also see these three links for further commentary: