Oklahoma City Public Schools plans to go after a federal grant that could bring $40 million or more to the district to help teachers and administrators tailor their lessons to individual students.
Race to the Top involves a series of federal grants that have been available only to state education departments until this year. On Aug. 12, the U.S. Department of Education announced the details of its grant program for individual school districts. The department plans to hand out $400 million nationwide.
“The heart of the Race to the Top district grant is personalizing the learning environment for students based on their level of mastery and their interests so they are more engaged,” said Jackie Mania, innovative programs coordinator for Oklahoma City Public Schools.
Examples of personalized learning include everything from tutoring programs to mentoring to professional development, she said.
In addition to the major funding, districts can also apply for supplemental grants of up to $2 million each, Mania said. For example, the district could choose to target specific groups of students, such as English language learners or special education students.
What Oklahoma City Public Schools would do with that cash is still up in the air. A committee of district officials and community stakeholders will hash out the details, Mania said.
“We are still in the research and discussion phase of this grant,” she said.
Oklahoma City Public Schools is in a good place to apply for Race to the Top, Mania said, because of requirements already outlined in the district strategic plan and in state regulations.
“It will just strengthen our focus,” she said.
Grant proposals are due Oct. 30. Winners will be announced by the end of the year.
Even if the district doesn't win any money, the process of identifying areas for improvement is worth the effort, Mania said.
“Any time you apply for a grant, there are many lessons that are learned,” she said. “There is a lot of research and a lot of discussion that goes with writing a grant, and a lot of really good ideas are born out of the grant-writing process.”