Race to the Top District Winners Announced

By Michele McNeil — December 11, 2012 2 min read
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Sixteen winners—including three charter school organizations—will share $400 million in the Race to the Top district competition, the U.S. Department of Education announced today.

Traditional districts such as Carson City, Nev., Guilford County, N.C., and New Haven Unified, Calif., also are sharing the prize, as are two large consortia of school districts in Kentucky and Washington state.

Miami-Dade is the biggest urban district on the list, having just won the coveted Broad Prize this year.

The charter school winners are IDEA public schools and the Harmony Science Academy consortia, both in Texas, and KIPP in the District in Columbia.

The rest of the winners are: Charleston County, S.C.; Galt Joint Union, Calif., Green River Regional Education Cooperative, Ky.; Iredell-Statesville, N.C.; Lindsay Unified, Calif.; Metropolitan School District of Warren Township in Indianapolis; Middletown City, N.Y.; Puget Sound Education Service District, Wash.; and St. Vrain Valley, Colo.

The grants range from $10 million to $40 million, depending on the winner’s enrollment. Two districts or groups of districts snagged the largest grants: the Green River cooperative in Kentucky and the Puget Sound co-op in Washington, which includes Seattle Public Schools.

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. Few of the winners, however, serve mostly rural students, with the largest concentration likely in the Kentucky co-op that won.

The contest was not without controversy, as many large districts considered front-runners (such as Los Angeles) failed to turn in complete applications because they couldn’t secure the support of their teachers’ unions.

And as a final bit of trivia, winner St. Vrain Schools in Colorado has a great track record when it comes to the Obama administration’s competitions. It was the top-scoring district in the Investing in Innovation contest in 2010.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.