Race to the Top for Districts Grant Competition: Round 2

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The Department of Education has posted the 2013 grant application for Round 2 of the Race to the Top for Districts (RTT-D) grant.  Applications are due October 3.

Out of 372 applicants in Round 1, only 16 were awarded.  Round 2 is likely to be just as competitive with only 5-10 awards to be granted nationally.  So this grant is not for the faint of heart!

To help school districts prepare for the Round 2 competition, we wanted to see what set apart the 16 awardees in Round 1.  So the Pearson Grants Team studied each of the successful applications and identified ten winning strategies.  Here are three of the findings:

  1. Prior success.  The RTT-D awardees developed projects that clearly illustrated a strong track record.  Success on a small scale gives reviewers confidence that the applicant will be successful on a larger scale.  Here are a few ways the 2012 winners demonstrated their prior success:
    1. Scale up a small project:  Carson City’s project plan was originally enacted in two schools on a smaller scale, but is now being expanded to four schools. Idea Public School’s plan centered on upgrading an existing data system.
    2. Document achievement:  In 2005, all Middletown schools were designated in need of improvement, but their achievement data has shown great improvement in subsequent years.
    3. Describe long-term efforts:  Charleston County described “Vision 2016,” a separate reform initiative.  Lindsay Unified described comprehensive efforts to involve stakeholders since 2007.  Puget Sound described their “Road Map Project” a collaborative reform project started in 2010.
  1. Technology. With the grant’s focus on personalized learning environments, it’s no surprise that at least $77 million of the $400 million distributed in Round 1 was geared towards technology including laptops, tablets, mobile devices, digital content, and adaptive reading software.At least 11 awardees’ projects included take-home mobile devices for students.  Carson City described an e-portfolio system tied to the Student Information System to guide students towards mastery of standards.  The Green River Consortium will provide Wi-Fi on school buses.  KIPP DC will provide personalized learning through the Waterford Early Learning software.
  2. Extensive professional development.  Almost every winning applicant spoke of Professional Learning Communities or Instructional Learning Teams.  They detailed how PLCs will function, how data will be utilized, and how they will be monitored and evaluated.

Miami-Dade’s plan includes intensive professional development in the first year to kick-start the project.  Guilford described 10 months of train-the-trainer activities.    Lindsay Unified plans to partner with a university to develop a residency program that will prepare teachers to implement a performance based system.

Interested in more winning strategies for RTT-D?   Email Grantexperts@pearson.com and ask for the “10 winning strategies” document.  You can also visit our RTT-D website for additional tools to help with the Round 2 application process:  http://www.rttdistrictgrant.net.

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