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Maryland among Race to the Top grant winners

August 24, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Maryland is one of nine states and the District of Columbia that will be awarded a portion of about $3.3 billion in federal grants to proceed with educational reform plans submitted for the Obama Administration's Race to the Top initiative.

Maryland will receive $250 million over four years, which is the full amount the state requested, according to Maureen Moran, spokeswoman for the Maryland State Department of Education.

The state education department expects to begin receiving federal Race to the Top funds by Sept. 30, Moran said.

"I think it's wonderful for the students of Maryland because I do believe it will bring some extra support and opportunities for students," Washington County Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said.

Washington County Public Schools staff will need to develop a plan concerning how to use the school system's share of the funding, Morgan said. The Board of Education would need to approve the plan, she said.

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The school system is expected to receive about $2.8 million.

Participating school systems will need to complete and approve outlines for how they will put their reform plans into action so state education officials can make sure everyone is on the same page before the money is distributed to the local school systems, Moran said.

State officials are awaiting verification from the U.S. Department of Education on how the $250 million will be spent and distributed, she said.

School board president Wayne Ridenour said he wasn't "overly surprised" the state won a grant.

"I think a lot of things that Race to the Top is looking for, Maryland is already doing. So, consequently, I thought it was something we had a good chance of receiving," Ridenour said. "Any help we can get right now is a bonus."

Among the 10 grant winners in the second round of Race to the Top, Maryland's score was tied for sixth with the District of Columbia, according to a U.S. Department of Education news release. Among the second-round winners, Maryland was the only state that didn't apply for funding in the first round. Delaware and Tennessee won grants in the first round.

Pennsylvania did not win a grant and West Virginia did not apply in the second round.

The second-round winners, in order, were: Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, Florida, Rhode Island, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio.

There were 19 finalists in the second round who requested about $6.2 billion, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said.

There was about $3.4 billion available in the second round, with the 10 grants totaling $3.325 billion.

Race to the Top required states that wanted a portion of the $4.35 billion education reform fund to submit proposals explaining how they would address four areas:

o Turning around low-achieving schools

o Adopting standards that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace in a global economy

o Building data systems to measure student growth, helping teachers improve instruction

o Recruiting, developing, rewarding and retaining effective teachers and principals

In a conference call Tuesday, Duncan said he was hopeful there would be a third phase. He said $1.35 billion is being requested in next year's budget for a third phase.

Bill Reinhard, Maryland education department spokesman, said half of the state's $250 million grant will be distributed to participating local school systems. The other $125 million will be used on state initiatives that will affect all local school systems, he said.

Frederick and Montgomery counties were the only local school systems in Maryland that didn't sign up to participate in Race to the Top, according to the state's application.

In July, when Morgan found out Maryland was a finalist for a Race to the Top grant, she said the money could be used for piloting programs and for innovation.

That could translate into trying new things at Western Heights Middle School to boost student achievement, Morgan said at the time. The middle school is considered in "school improvement" after it failed to meet Maryland School Assessment standards, according to results released in July.

The grant money also could help with college and career readiness by making more rigorous courses available to more students and it could help with vocational offerings, Morgan has said.

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