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Nearly 900 Districts Set to Compete for New Race to Top

With $400 million up for grabs, 893 school districts or groups of districts have told the U.S. Department of Education that they plan to compete in the latest Race to the Top competition, which is designed to spur improvements at the local level.

This includes nearly 200 large districts that are eligible for the top awards of between $30 million and $40 million. Another 433 small districts plan to compete for $10 million to $20 million, the smallest awards. The rest are somewhere in between.

The nearly 900 districts made yesterday's deadline of letting the department know that they want to compete. Filing a "notice of intent to apply" wasn't mandatory, but more of a courtesy so the department can plan things such as how many peer reviewers will be needed to judge the competition. It's important to note that just because a district filed such a notice doesn't mean it has to apply; in fact, the final list of applicants is usually quite a bit shorter.

Applications are due Oct. 30 for this contest, which asks districts to devise personalized learning plans to tailor teaching and learning to the individual needs of students. Between 15 and 25 awards are expected, which means competition will be very, very stiff.

The list of "intents to apply" includes 80 districts from California and 64 from Texas, two large states that have not benefited much (if at all) from previous Race to the Top contests.

Planning to apply are usual suspects including New York City, Chicago (which Education Secretary Arne Duncan used to lead), and Los Angeles. Among big districts not on this list are Miami-Dade in Florida and Atlanta.

Also planning to apply is the District of Columbia, which won a $75 million state grant during the 2010 Race to the Top. Being both a district and a "state" means D.C. could really cash in from Race the Top. Hawaii, which is still in a bit of trouble over its 2010 Race to the Top grant, is not applying even though it also enjoys the status of being both a state and a district. (The Aloha State has a single, state-run school district.)

Districts from 48 states (plus D.C.) are planning to compete, with no district in Wyoming or North Dakota expressing an interest as of now. The large number of small districts applying, however, is likely to mean a fair number of applications representing rural districts, which is something the Education Department had made a priority. In fact, the contest rules indicate that rural applications will be scored against other rural applicants, leveling the playing field a bit.

Do you see anything interesting on this long list of districts that are set to apply?

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