Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Race to the Top-District: Portfolio School Districts Have the Advantage

The US Department of Education has released details of its latest funding competition, Race to the Top-District. The $400 million competition will award between $5 million and $40 million to districts that score high on the 200-point competition criteria.

The competition emphasizes districts offering students a personalized learning environment leading toward college and career readiness—a focus that highly favors the growing number of portfolio school districts that are already hard at work on these fronts. New York City, New Orleans, Chicago, Denver, Hartford, Baltimore, and Cleveland are among more than 25 districts pursuing a portfolio strategy.

Portfolio school districts adopt a strategy aimed at dramatically increasing student achievement via a continuous improvement model. The strategy, built around 7 key components, creates diverse options for families, especially those in disadvantaged neighborhoods, by opening new high-performing, autonomous schools; giving all schools control of budgeting and hiring; and holding schools accountable to common performance standards. To implement this comprehensive vision, portfolio districts build strong partnerships with high-performing charter schools and give principals in district-run schools the freedom to build teacher teams and adapt uses of time and money to the needs of their students. These changes are anchored by public engagement and school accountability for student learning. Thus, portfolio districts are well situated to apply for Race to the Top-Districts.

For anyone interested in finding out more about the portfolio strategy and tools and resources available, visit

Details about the new federal competition

The scoring will be based on:

  1. Comprehensive and coherent reform vision, plan and goals, 40 points
  2. Track record of academic growth, transparent expenditures and public engagement, 45 points
  3. Preparing students for college and careers via personalized learning environment, 40 points
  4. District policy and infrastructure that supports principals and teachers, 25 points
  5. Continuous improvement plan, measures and public engagement, 30 points
  6. Budget and sustainability to support the work, 20 points

Competitive Preference Priority: Public/private partnerships to support students with high needs, 10 points

Application dates:

  • August 16: The Department of Education is offering two technical assistance opportunities, with the first on August 16. Registration is required.
  • August 30: Districts are strongly encouraged to submit a very basic web-based form by August 30, 2012.
  • October 30: The application is due on October 30, 2012 and award announcements will be made in December 2012.

Race to the Top Website

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