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Obama Urges Schools to Apply for Education Grant

Obama and DuncanPresident Obama is encouraging troubled school districts to compete for a portion of the $400 million in grants available from his administration’s “Race to the Top” education initiative. The latest round of grants was announced on Tuesday by Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“Race to the Top” is open to school districts with at least 2500 students and 40 percent of the students eligible for free or reduced lunch. Districts interested in applying would have to create a plan for school improvement that effectively prepares students for college and career paths. “As importantly, they will create opportunities for students to identify and pursue areas of personal passion—all of this occurring in the context of ensuring that each student demonstrates mastery in critical areas identified in college—and career-ready standards,” said a draft of the competition’s rules. A final draft will be available in June.

The initiative also hopes to create more charter schools and create ways to better evaluate teachers. It was launched in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and has made $5 billion in aid available to schools.

Districts that win the grant will be awarded between $15 and $25 million and smaller districts can apply together as consortiums. “This aims squarely at the classroom and the all-important relation amongst teachers and their students,” said Secretary Duncan. “We must take classroom learning beyond a one-size-fits-all model and bring it into the 21st century.”

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