Wednesday, May 22, 2013
AUGUSTA – After the state struck out in two versions of the Race to the Top federal grant competition, few Maine schools appear interested in a new district-level round of grants.
Among 893 districts that plan to apply for shares of the $400 million, the only two from Maine are Auburn and Portland, though others may join Auburn's application to form a consortium.
Most Maine school districts are ineligible for the Race to the Top district competition because of they are too small.
The U.S. Department of Education released final guidelines Aug. 12, leaving little time for districts to meet a nonbinding Aug. 30 deadline to signal their intent to apply. Applications are due Oct. 30.
Federal officials expect to make 15 to 25 awards of $5 million to $40 million. Maine school districts that apply will compete with some of the nation's largest, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami.
Federal education reform initiatives come with conditions, and it can be difficult for districts to follow through or even put together a proposal, said Dale Douglass, executive director of the Maine School Management Association.
Race to the Top is a multibillion-dollar initiative of the Obama administration to promote school reforms such as performance-based teacher evaluations, school choice and data systems to track students' progress.
Maine has submitted two unsuccessful applications to versions of Race to the Top, for elementary and secondary education and for early childhood education.
The district competition requires enacting evaluation systems for teachers, principals and the superintendent; measuring all students' progress against college- and career-ready standards; and using data to track students' growth and match it to teachers.
At most, 25 school districts in Maine meet the eligibility threshold of 2,000 students and 40 percent low-income students. Smaller districts may apply as part of a group of at least 10 districts.
Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Susan McMillan can be contacted at 621-5645 or at: