Rural districts are being given an edge in the new round of the federal 2012 Teacher Incentive Fund competition announced late last week.
The $285 million program includes two new competitive preferences for applicants, and rural districts are one of those. The other will be for applications creating salary structures that incorporate teacher and principal performance.
Districts can apply either individually or in partnership with other districts. States and non-profits also are invited to apply with districts. Federal officials say this round of competition “includes a new focus on supporting district-wide evaluation systems that reward success, offer greater professional opportunities, and drive decision-making on recruitment, development, and retention of effective teachers and principals.”
There’s plenty of additional information available on what the federal government is looking for in proposals, and money would be available to go toward supporting performance-based compensation, professional development, and any other related system that would benefit the entire district.
This change is close to what one think tank recommended in a report last fall about ways federal policies could be improved to serve rural interests. The report suggested boosting the teacher and principal workforce in rural schools by broadening the Teacher Incentive Fund to require state applicants to serve high-needs rural areas.
Rural advocates have criticized other competitive federal grant programs, such as Investing in Innovation, for failing to give grants to “authentically rural” communities.
The draft regulations of the new Race to the Top grants for districts ask districts to specify whether they are rural and whether they are in a state that already has a Race to the Top grant. Still, at least one rural school leader said rural districts don’t have the staff or time to put together those kinds of applications.
About 30 Teacher Incentive Fund grants ranging from $500,000 to $12 million will be awarded. Proposals must span five years, but funding only will be provided for the first year. Additional dollars will require Congress’ approval.
Applications are due July 27 and winners will be announced in September.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.