With $400 million up for grabs, 893 school districts or groups of districts have told the U.S. Department of Education that they plan to compete in the latest Race to the Top competition, which is designed to spur improvements at the local level.
The pool includes nearly 200 large districts that are eligible for the top awards, $30 million to $40 million, and 433 small districts that plan to compete for $10 million to $20 million, the smallest awards. The rest are somewhere in between.
The nearly 900 districts made the Aug. 30 deadline of letting the department know that they want to compete. Filing a “notice of intent to apply” wasn’t mandatory; it was more of a courtesy so the department can make such plans as how many peer reviewers it will need to judge the competition. And a district that filed such a notice doesn’t have to apply.
The contest asks districts to devise personalized learning plans to tailor teaching and learning to the individual needs of students. Between 15 and 25 awards are expected, which means competition will be stiff.
The list of “intents to apply” includes 80 districts from California and 64 from Texas, two large states that have not benefited much, if at all, from previous Race to the Top contests.
Planning to apply are such usual suspects as New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Among the big districts not on the list are Miami-Dade County in Florida and Atlanta.
Also planning to apply is the District of Columbia, which won a $75 million state grant during the 2010 Race to the Top. Being both a district and a “state” means the nation’s capital could really cash in from the Race to the Top. Hawaii, which is still in a bit of trouble over its 2010 Race to the Top grant, is not applying even though it also enjoys the status of being both a state and a district.
Districts from 48 states (plus the District of Columbia) plan to compete; no district in Wyoming or North Dakota has expressed an interest so far. The large number of small districts applying is likely to mean a fair number of applications representing rural districts, which is something the Education Department had made a priority. In fact, the contest rules indicate that rural applications will be scored against other rural applicants, leveling the playing field a bit.
A version of this article appeared in the September 12, 2012 edition of Education Week as Districts Queue Up For Race to Top Aid