Colorado districts signal R2T interest

A collection of 17 school districts, boards of cooperative educational services and one charter school have formally indicated their interest in applying for a new federal Race to the Top program that’s targeted at the local level, not at states.

ARRA logoLarger districts in the group include Aurora, Boulder Valley, Denver, Poudre and Pueblo City. Also on the list are Eagle County, Fountain-Fort Carson, Harrison and Mapleton.

The $400 million program carries individual four-year grants of $5 million to $40 million, depending on district size and other factors. A central goal of the program is to help districts create personalized learning experiences tailored to individual students.

The U.S. Department of Education set a Thursday deadline for local education agencies to file intent-to-apply forms. The deadline for the full 117-page application is Oct. 30. However, districts that indicated interest aren’t required to finish the application process. And a district can still participate even if it didn’t file an intent-to-apply form.

The intent forms “will be used by the department primarily to develop an efficient process for reviewing grant applications,” according to the department.

The eligibility rules are complicated and include district size; percentage of low-income students, whether a district has teacher, principal and superintendent evaluation systems in place; commitment to college and career readiness for all students, and strength of data systems, among other things.

Winning districts will need to have 2,000 participating students, although groups of 10 or more districts – such as a board of cooperative educational services or BOCES – that serve fewer than 2,000 are eligible if at least 75 percent of all students in the group participate. Award sizes will depend on number of students served.

Here’s the list of Colorado entities that have indicated interest, including what DOE calls “expected” budget requests. The DOE did not screen interested districts for their potential eligibility.

  • Aurora, $20-30 million
  • Boulder Valley, $10-$20 million
  • Brush, $5-10 million
  • Center, $10-$20 million
  • Denver, $30-$40 million
  • Eagle, $10-$20 million
  • Fountain-Fort Carson, $10-$20 million
  • Harrison, $5-$10 million
  • Mapleton, $0-$20 million
  • Northeast Colorado BOCES (12 districts), $5-$10 million
  • Pinnacle Charter School (Thornton and Federal Heights), $5-$10 million
  • Poudre, $5-$10 million
  • Pueblo City, $20-$30 million
  • San Juan BOCES (nine districts), $10-$20 million
  • San Luis Valley BOCES (14 districts, including Center), $$5-$10 million)
  • South Central BOCES (14 districts, including Pueblo City), $10-$20 million
  • Vilas, $5-$10 million

The department received indications of interest from 893 potential applicants nationwide. Officials say there will be 15 to 25 winners when the awards are announced in December.

Race to the Top has morphed into a collection of programs since the first state-level competition was announced in 2009. Colorado applied but finished out of the money in two rounds for state grants. Colorado also lost a third R2T competition focused on early childhood.

Late last year, Colorado did win $17.9 million in a “consolation round” of funding for states that almost made the cut in a previous round. The state is using its half of that money to help develop the educator evaluation system and support the work of “content collaboratives,” groups of educators and experts that are developing methods for assessing student mastery of new state content standards, especially in subjects not tested by the statewide assessments. The other half of the R2T grants went to participating school districts to spend on their own work in the same areas.

The $4.3 billion R2T effort was launched as part of President Obama’s economic stimulus package and is seen as the administration’s hallmark education initiative.

Some $330 million of R2T funds went to two groups that are developing multi-state tests to assess students on the Common Core Standards in English and math. Colorado has adopted those standards and recently joined one of the groups, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, as a governing member.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”