An increased number of school districts are participating in the state's second Race to the Top application, Iowa Department of Education officials recently announced.
A total of 246 school districts or 68 percent have signed on to participate in reform efforts outlined in Iowa's second application for federal Race to the Top grant money; this is up from 221 school districts who participated in the state's first application in January.
The school districts that are participating serve a total of 342,812 students or more than 73 percent of Iowa's K-12 public school population. This is an increase from the first application, which would have impacted only 47 percent of the state's K-12 public school students. These school districts also serve 79 percent of Iowa students living in poverty, a key priority of the Race to the Top program. This is also up from the first application, in which only 42 percent would have been affected. Iowa has a total of 361 school districts and 467,461 K-12 public school students.
"I am very encouraged about Iowa's strength in competing for hundreds of millions of dollars in the second round of federal Race to the Top funding," Governor Chet Culver said. "The decision by some of our state's largest school districts to be a part of the application has made our position stronger, and given all of us additional reason to be optimistic Iowa's application will be successful. The additional funds will help us better fund school districts and hold the line on local property taxes."
"Iowa is on a path to enhancing education in our state," said Iowa Department of Education Acting Director Kevin Fangman. "Change is needed because our students are facing a future in which local business happens on a global scale and access to information is unlimited. Community school board members, principals, and teachers across the state see this every day. Our plan to position Iowa students for success in this new landscape is outlined, in part, in our Race to the Top application. The collaborative effort between state and local education leaders has meant greater participation, a stronger application, and the opportunity to move forward with a plan that is right for our students."
The Race to the Top fund is a competitive federal grant program designed to encourage and reward states that are creating the conditions for education innovation and reform; achieving significant improvement in student outcomes, including making substantial gains in student achievement, closing achievement gaps, improving high school graduation rates, and ensuring student preparation for success in college and careers; and implementing ambitious plans in key education reform areas. It is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, an economic stimulus package enacted in February 2009.
The 246 districts submitted a memorandum of understanding, signifying their agreement to participate in reform efforts outlined in Iowa's application. The key areas of this reform include:
1. Providing intensive support for our state's lowest-achieving schools;
2. Continuing to build a balanced system to assess how students are doing academically and providing several different ways to determine their progress from year to year;
3. Further developing a valid and reliable teacher and principal evaluation system, which would include information about how they can improve;
4. Integrating a set of academic standards currently being developed at the national level in the subject areas of English language arts and mathematics into the Iowa Core, which mandates a minimum of what all Iowa students should know and be able to do in the areas of literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, and 21st century skills.
Iowa is applying for $175 million under the federal Race to the Top grant program. This is the maximum amount it is eligible to receive in the second application round. A portion of the funding will go directly to Iowa school districts. If Iowa receives Race to the Top funds, each Iowa school district that signed on to participate will receive a minimum of $60,000 to support the reform work. Additional funding would also be provided to districts that want to participate in specific projects or areas of work.
Iowa first applied for Race to the Top funds in January. Out of 41 states that applied in the first round, only two - Delaware and Tennessee - were awarded funds. Building upon the input provided by groups of Iowans in the first application round, the Iowa Department of Education is currently writing the second application, which is due to the U.S. Department of Education (USED) on June 1. The USED is expected to announce second round winners in late August or early September.
Battle Creek-Ida Grove
C and M
Clear Creek Amana
Des Moines Independent
Manson Northwest Webster
Nora Springs-Rock Falls
North Tama County
South Tama County
Wall Lake View Auburn
West Burlington Ind
West Delaware County
West Des Moines