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

SEATTLE/SOUTH KING COUNTY – 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, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, 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 Road Map 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 $10 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 Senator 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.”

“This grant is a critical investment in King County schools, students and educators,” said Senator Maria Cantwell. “The future of our economy and global competitiveness depends on the quality of our educational system. This investment recognizes the innovation of King County educational leaders in providing students with crucial programs like STEM education and early learning. These programs are vital in preparing Washington students to succeed in the global economy.”

“I want to congratulate each school district for recognizing the common challenges they face and working together with the Road Map Project to collectively achieve them. This grant will provide funds for critical early learning programs, STEM education and resources to improve access to higher education for students in South King County. At a time of limited federal resources, this remarkable coordinated effort to achieve a Race to the Top Grant stands as a model for school districts across the country,” said Congressman Adam Smith.

“I am proud of our education leaders who helped with the Race to the Top grant today, and I congratulate the seven winning school districts for working together to build a successful vision for our local students. Our regional economy and quality of life will benefit for decades to come as we give all students access to the tools they need to succeed. This is an exciting time to be a student or an educator in our region,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

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. Thank you to all our partner organizations, districts, unions, community agencies, cities and housing authorities. The effort and commitment behind this plan is unprecedented – it’s a level of collaboration that should be celebrated and replicated,” 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 Language Learner (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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About the Puget Sound Educational Service District
The Puget Sound Educational Service District (ESD) #121 is one of nine regional agencies serving school districts and state-approved private schools in Washington State. Our service area includes 35 school districts and more than 200 private schools in King and Pierce counties plus Bainbridge Island. Approximately 38 percent of the state’s K-12 public school students, more than 383,000, are served in the area’s school districts, which range from large to small, urban to rural.

About the Road Map Project
The Road Map Project is a community-wide effort aimed at dramatically improving student achievement from cradle to college and career in South King County and South Seattle. The project builds off the belief that collective effort is necessary to make large-scale change and has created a common goal and shared vision in order to facilitate coordinated action, both inside and outside schools. The Road Map Project is supported by the Community Center for Education Results, a nonprofit organization. For more information, please visit roadmapproject.org