Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rural school districts dominate second round of federal 'Race to the Top' grants

Three rural school districts or groups, and an Arkansas district that retains much of its recently rural character, were among the five winners in the latest round of "Race to the Top"  grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, totaling $120 million.

The winners were a consortium of 18 rural districts in Eastern Kentucky, to get $30 million; a consortium of four in South Carolina, $25 million; and districts in Clarksdale, Miss. ($10 million), Springdale, Ark. ($25.9 million), and Houston, Texas ($30 million). The Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative "narrowly missed winning last time," Education Week reports. Springdale, "near the Tyson Foods headquarters, enrolls 20,500 students, including many English-learners."

"These winners particularly shine a light on the innovative work going on in rural school districts across the country to tailor education for all students and provide school leaders and teachers with key tools that support them in meeting students’ needs," a department news release said. "The grantees were selected from 31 finalists, representing 80 school districts across 21 states. The department received more than 200 applications."

Michele McNeil of Education Week reports the South Carolina group, led by Clarendon County District 2, "wants to increase access to digital devices for students and create individualized learning plans for each student. Springdale plans to expand career academies, require ninth graders to take an online course, and improve its data dashboard. Clarksdale will focus on expanding its ninth- grade academy. And the Kentucky Valley co-op will expand distance learning and better train teachers to use technology." (Read more)

The release said the grants are intended to help personalize and improve student learning, increase student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare all students for success in college and careers. For more information on Race to the Top from the department, click here. UPDATE, Jan. 5: For a roundup and highlights from Michele McNeil of Education Week, go here.

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