King County school districts win $40 million Race to the Top grant

Sen. Patty Murray - Courtesy photo
Sen. Patty Murray
— image credit: Courtesy photo

A grant application written jointly by seven King County school districts has won $40 million in federal Race to the Top funds, the U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday.

The Auburn, Kent, Federal Way, Highline, Renton, Seattle and Tukwila school districts competed together this fall as "The Road Map District Consortium," a reference to their participation in the Road Map Project.

The project is a collaborative effort to dramatically improve education in South Seattle and South King County.

The King County districts' application was among 16 winners selected out of 372 applications. Awards ranged from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the number of students served by the plan.

The Road Map District Consortium was one of only two applicants to win the maximum award of $40 million.

"This is a major victory for students and families in South King County," said Sen. Patty Murray. "When we level the playing field by providing increased access and opportunity for our students, everyone wins. I congratulate the Road Map District Consortium for their outstanding leadership and collaboration in this endeavor. This victory will have a long-lasting impact on our community, and our state, as we all work together to build a brighter future for our students."

The Puget Sound Educational Service District will serve as the lead agency responsible for overall project management and function as the fiscal agent.

"This amazing accomplishment proves that great things can happen when we work together," said John Welch, superintendent of the Puget Sound Educational Service District. "The region's plan is designed to have big impact where it's needed most. We are excited to roll out strategies that will help all students experience success."

The winning plan covers 261 schools and 150,000 students, including 36,000 high-need children. The districts will use the four-year Race to the Top grant to implement the following plans to help students "Start Strong," be "STEM Strong" and "Stay Strong":

Start Strong – We know that early learning is critical

• Provide funds to help districts work with preschools and early learning programs to help kids be ready to be successful in kindergarten.

• Improve math, science and English LanguageLearner (ELL) teaching and leadership approaches so all students receive high-quality instruction.

STEM Strong – We live in a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-intensive region

• Provide a computer-based math instructional program for all high-need K-8th grade students that they can use in school and at home.

• Help students explore STEM careers via online tools, speakers, mentors and internships.

• Be a leader in implementing Next Generation Science Standards.

Stay Strong – These strategies will help more students be successful in postsecondary education

• Offer all students the opportunity to take the SAT and PSAT in school for free.

• Offer training for middle and high school guidance counselors and provide counselor assistants to better serve more students.

• Offer districts the opportunity to the Advanced Placement (AP) course selections for students and help more teachers to get AP course training. Also, provide the opportunity to include more STEM, International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, world language and career certificate options.

The grant also meets minimum federal requirements:

• Strong focus on personalizing education.

• Stronger teacher, principal and superintendent evaluations by 2014.

• Implementation of Common Core State Standards complete by the 2014-15 school year.

• Transparent reporting of data and school-level expenditures.

Additionally, the consortium's commitments go beyond the minimum federal requirements:

• Provide all high-need elementary students with a summer reading plan.

• Double the number of students taking algebra or higher by the end of eighth grade.

• Help all eighth-grade students complete a personalized plan to be college- and career-ready.

This is the first time the federal Race to the Top competition has been open to districts and district consortiums. Previously, the grants had only been offered to states.

To read the region's Race to the Top application, click here. To view a full list of Race to the Top finalists, please click here.

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