On Monday, the Department of Education and the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the winners of the District Race to the Top competition. The 16 winners make up an extremely diverse group of districts and consortia. The biggest urban district to take home a grant is Miami-Dade, who also recently won the Broad Prize. KIPP in the District in Columbia; Iredell-Statesville, NC; and Middletown City, NY are all from states that won original Race to the Top grants. Consortia from Kentucky and Washington both won awards. Districts from Nevada, California, South Carolina, Washington, and Colorado represent states left out of the original Race to the Top competition. Even charters got into the act, including IDEA public schools and Harmony Science Academy consortia, both from Texas. Lastly, St. Vrain Schools in Colorado represents i3 grant winners (they were the highest scoring district in that competitive grant competition).
Quoting from Michelle McNeil’s EdWeek article, “U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the winners’ circle includes ‘a really good mix’ of both districts that are already education-reform leaders, and districts that have not received as much attention.
‘We know that school districts have been hungry to drive reform at the local level,’ Duncan said.”
With so many states struggling to implement the reforms promised in their Race to the Top applications, I believe this diverse group of districts could provide an interesting case study about the success of driving reform at the local level. If these districts are successful at delivering on what’s been promised, the lessons learned and potential to scale these programs could be infinitely beneficial to districts around the country. Only time will tell if this will be the case, but it will be interesting to monitor these districts as things unfold.
Jesse Moyer is the Director of State Advocacy and Research with KnowledgeWorks. He is a believer in public education working and passionate about family, sports and fishing.