July 28, 2010

Maine loses out on federal money for school reform

Maine's application for $75 million in Race to the Top funding falls short in competition scoring.

From staff and wire reports

Maine is out of the running for a share of $4.35 billion in federal Race to the Top education reform money.

The U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday that 18 states and Washington, D.C., are finalists in the second round of a funding competition paid for with economic stimulus money.

Maine's application for up to $75 million fell short in competition scoring, while New England neighbors Massachusetts and Rhode Island made the list of finalists.

Maine was among 36 applicants for money in the education reform competition's second round. Those with scores of 400 and above were named finalists.

There will be no further opportunities for Maine to seek Race to the Top funding unless additional money is allocated to the program in the future, said David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for the Maine Department of Education.

Losing out on Race to the Top funding won't stop Maine schools from pursuing various improvement plans, according to Angela Faherty, Maine's acting commissioner of education.

"Our application is a blueprint for moving Maine's education action plan forward," she said. "We continue to seek sources of funding to support our work."

Maine recently received $7.3 million in federal education funding to develop a data collection system to examine student progress from early childhood until they enter the work force.

And earlier this week, Maine submitted a request for $7.6 million to support efforts to increase the graduation rate in high schools with low rates of graduation, Faherty said.

In the coming months, Maine will begin implementing the national Common Core standards and promoting the significant expansion of early childhood education in public schools.

The federal agency has posted all state applications on its website, www.ed.gov.

The Pine Tree State's 200-page application proposed creating a system of "personalized learning" that would allow students to pursue high school diplomas by mastering course materials at their own pace.

The application says all Maine school districts would be required to develop learning support systems to keep struggling students in all grade levels on track.

Maine's application also included multiple mentions of the state's Learning Technology Initiative and its Jobs for Maine's Graduates program. The application proposed using award money to expand both programs, though it didn't detail the scope of the expansions.

The technology initiative is a first-in-the-nation program that equips all seventh- and eighth-graders with laptops. The program was expanded into many Maine high schools last year, though the state provide minimal funding for the expansion.

Jobs for Maine's Graduates is a nonprofit organization with programs in more than 60 public schools that target students at risk of not finishing high school, offering them tutoring help and equipping them with work-readiness skills.


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