School districts take their marks for Race to the Top dollars

2012-09-03T00:00:00Z 2012-09-03T23:43:03Z School districts take their marks for Race to the Top dollarsCarmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

The School City of Hammond will be one of dozens of districts across the country applying for millions of dollars in Race to the Top funds.

Race to the Top is a federal program that allows states to apply for up to $4 billion in federal funds to implement education reform. The program was opened to individual school districts allowing them to apply for more than $400 million in federal funds. Applications are due Oct. 30. Awards will be announced no later than Dec. 31.

Hammond Superintendent Walter Watkins told School Board officials last week he intends to apply for those dollars. "That's a lot of money out there, and we have an opportunity to get $20 or $30 million," he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the purpose of the nearly $400 million program is to build on the lessons learned from previous state-level competitions and support bold, locally directed improvements in teaching and learning that will directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness.

The 2012 final program criteria invites applications from districts or groups of districts proposing to serve at least 2,000 students with 40 percent or more qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch.

Applicants are invited to demonstrate how they can personalize education for all students in their schools. The Department of Education plans to support high-quality proposals from a variety of applicants, including rural and non-rural as well as those already participating in a Race to the Top grant and those not currently participating.

Indiana Department of Education spokeswoman Stephanie Sample said the state is not involved in the process but that it was "important the districts realize they will be expected to adhere to all state accountability laws and regulations," she said.

Portage Superintendent Ric Frataccia said he'll be able to say more when he knows the criteria for the application.

Valparaiso Interim Superintendent Mike Berta said he hasn't seen anything on it.

"I am not aware of the details associated with the application. I am not planning to apply until I learn more about what's involved," he said.

Hebron Superintendent George Letz said it's difficult for a small school district to apply for Race to the Top money.

"If it's anybody who does it, it will be the larger school districts. There are a lot of rules and regulations which apply," he said.

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