The Department of Education recently released final guidelines for the Race to the Top district program. Unlike the open-ended i3 program, RttT Districts is focused on personalized learning—an appropriate topic given the introduction of the Common Core, preparation for online assessment, and the shift to digital learning.

The Background document said, “Personalized learning environments allow students to understand their individual learning goals and needs; access deep learning experiences that include individual and group tasks.” The outcomes the Department is looking for is college and career readiness and specifically, “Goal setting, teamwork, perseverance, critical thinking, communications, creativity, and problem solving across multiple academic domains.

As a proxy for capacity, the scoring rubric emphasizes prior success. The K-12 Politics blog outlined the Executive Summary:

Personalized learning component makes up 40 points on the 200-point grading scale. The rest of the grading scale is:

  • Prior academic track record and how transparent the district is (such as if it makes school-level expenditures readily available to the public), 45 points
  • “Vision” for reform, 40 points
  • Continuous improvement (having a strategy and performance measures for long-term improvement), 30 points
  • District policy and infrastructure (such as giving building leaders more autonomy), 25 points; and
  • Budget and sustainability, 20 points.

The Backgrounder says winning local education authorities (LEAs) will:

  • provide teachers the information, tools, and supports that enable them to meet the needs of each student and substantially accelerate and deepen each student’s learning
  • have the policies, systems, infrastructure, capacity, and culture to enable teachers, teacher teams, and school leaders to continuously focus on improving individual student achievement and closing achievement gaps
  • make equity and access a priority and aim to prepare each student to master the content and skills required for college- and career-readiness, provide each student the opportunity to pursue a rigorous course of study, and accelerate and deepen students’ learning through attention to their individual needs; and
  • create opportunities for students to identify and pursue areas of personal academic interest–all while ensuring that each student masters critical areas identified in college- and career-ready standards or college- and career-ready high school graduation requirements.

The competitive priorities are written in a way that will ensure that high-need districts (at least 40% low income) inside and outside RttT states, both big and small, have a shot at winning.

Awards will be $5 to $40 million depending on size.  Union and school board signoff is required. The Intent to Apply is due August 30, 2012. Application Due are October 30, 2012. Awards will be announcement in December.

The RttT District program has the chance to advance personalized learning and competency-based school models, and scale blended learning platforms like EdElements and Junyo, adaptive platforms like i-Ready and Dreambox, and social learning platforms like Edmodo.

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