The only Indiana school district to make it to the final round of the Race to the Top competition will receive approximately $28.5 million from the federal grant program, the U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday.
The Metropolitan School District of Warren Township was one of 16 school districts selected from more than 300 applicants. From Education Week:
Because state education officials didn’t apply for the first round of grants in 2010, this is the first time a school in Indiana will receive money from Race to the Top.
Given that the department estimated handing out between 15 and 25 awards, the number of awards is on the low end and leaves most of the 61 finalists disappointed. Big-city districts such as Boston, New York City, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, for example, were left out of the winners’ circle.
This latest version of the well-known Race to the Top brand is meant to spark improvements at the district level, particularly in the area of personalized learning. The contest was also meant to spread Race to the Top money around in states that had not won before—and among districts in rural America.
And indeed, 11 of the 16 districts or groups of districts are in states that did not win the original 12 Race to the Top grants for states.
But there are some strings attached to the funding, as we noted in September. Districts applying for the money agree to create an evaluation system for teachers and principals, align with the new Common Core academic standards and build a “robust data system” tracking student progress.
Here’s what a DOE reviewer had to say about MSD Warren Township’s application:
Warren Township has demonstrated a remarkable history of success. With a 71% poverty rating, this district has managed to show such a high level of student growth through reform, that the Indiana State Department of Education used the 8-Step Process for continuous improvement of the Warren Township schools as a model for persistently low-performing schools. Teams from 26 schools spent an entire day in Warren Township during a week-long training on the 8-Step Process. Nearly every participating school demonstrated improvement over a two-year implementation period.
Indiana began a new testing program in the spring of 2009. Initially, Warren Township is passing results were below state averages. While they continue to be beneath state averages. The annual gains in percentages of passing students have been exceeding the increases of the state as a whole, despite funding cuts, school closures, and district-wide reconfiguration.