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$400 Million Race to the Top District Competition Draws 893 LEAs and Consortia

Nearly 900 districts are looking to apply for the first-ever federal Race to the Top District program, according to the United States Department of Education. The program will award $400 million to individual districts and consortia for programs related to school reform, specifically in the areas of teaching and learning.

Potential applicants were required to file "intent to apply" materials by Aug. 30. Actual applications are not due until Oct. 30.

Race to the Top is a federal program focused on driving changes in public schooling through competitive grants to states, with an eye toward reforming academic standards, investing in teachers and education leadership, improving achievement in schools whose students have performed poorly on standardized tests, and developing data systems that follow students from "cradle to career."

The program was launched as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 and initially funded at $4.35 billion, distributed over two rounds of applications through 2010.

Race to the Top District is a brand new program within the Race to the Top Initiative. It was first mentioned by ED back in May 2011 as a proposal to fund reform efforts on a district level. The first competition, which opened just this month, is being funded at $400 million. As ED described it, the program is designed to support "local reforms that will personalize learning, close achievement gaps, and prepare each student for college and their careers."

"I believe the best ideas come from leaders at the local level, and the enthusiastic response to the Race to the Top-District competition highlights the excitement that districts have to engage in locally designed reforms that will directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a prepared statement. "We hope to build on this nationwide momentum by funding districts that have innovative plans to transform the learning environment, a clear vision for reform and a track record of success."

ED reported it expects to make 15 to 25 awards this first compeition, spread across "a variety of districts, including rural and non-rural districts as well as those already participating in a Race to the Top state grant and districts not participating." Individual four-year awards will range from $5 million to $40 million, according to ED.

Final district-level awards will be announced by Dec. 31.

Additional details about the Race to the Top District program, including deadlines, guidelines, and eligibility requirements, can be found on

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .