CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - The U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday that Charleston County School District is one of 16 applicants – representing 55 school districts across 11 states and D.C. – that has won the 2012 Race to the Top-District competition.
This is the first time the Department has offered Race to the Top funds to districts, which will share nearly $400 million to support locally developed plans to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare every student to succeed in college and their careers. Charleston County School District is expected to receive a federal grant of about $19 million to implement its local reform plans.
"Districts have been hungry to drive reform at the local level, and now these winners can empower their school leaders to pursue innovative ideas where they have the greatest impact: in the classroom," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "The Race to the Top-District grantees have shown tremendous leadership though developing plans that will transform the learning environment and enable students to receive a personalized, world-class education."
The 2012 Race to the Top-District grantees will receive four-year awards that range from $10 million to $40 million, depending on the number of students served through the plan. The winning applicants were the top scorers among the 372 applications the Department received in November, which were evaluated and scored by independent peer reviewers. Grantees represent a diverse set of districts, including applicants from both states that received a Race to the Top state grant as well as those that have not received Race to the Top state funding. Among the winners is a rural-area consortium representing 24 rural districts, which comprise 44 percent of the total number of districts that will benefit from the 2012 competition.
The Race to the Top-District competition builds on the success of the Race to the Top state grant program by supporting classroom-level reform efforts that encourage transformative change within schools. Applicants from all districts were invited to demonstrate how they can personalize education for all students and provide school leaders and teachers with tools that help them best meet their students' needs. In developing their plans, districts collaborated with educators, parents, and both public and private organizational leaders to ensure their vision was supported by key community stakeholders.
"Since the day he took office, President Obama has been laser-focused on the goal of ensuring that every child has access to a quality education," said Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Cecilia Muñoz. "Race to the Top exemplifies this commitment and marks an historic moment in American education, raising the bar and improving outcomes for schools across the United States."
Race to the Top, which launched in 2009, has inspired dramatic education reform nationwide, leading 45 states and the District of Columbia to pursue higher college- and career-ready standards, data-driven decision making, greater support for teachers and leaders, and turnaround interventions in low-performing schools. These 16 grantees will build on those principles at the classroom level to support localized plans that will directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness.
"Race to the Top sparked as much reform in some states that didn't receive funds as in those that did – a trend we want to see continued with the Race to the Top-District competition, where the number of strong district applicants was greater than the funding we had available," Duncan said. "We want districts to keep moving on these blueprints for reform to transform the learning environment and ultimately prepare every student for college and their career."
Race to the Top-District plans are tailored to meet the needs of local communities and feature a variety of strategies, including: using technology to personalize learning for each student; giving students opportunities to learn beyond the traditional school day and environment; supporting students' transitions throughout their education, including from high school to college and careers; expanding partnerships with community organizations to provide students with targeted social services like crisis intervention, individual counseling and life enrichment opportunities; and providing professional development and coursework options to deepen learning in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.