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Seeking $30 Million, Hartford Schools Named Finalist For Race To The Top Grant

Bridgeport Also Among 61 Finalists for $400M in Federal Grants


November 27, 2012

Hartford and Bridgeport were chosen as finalists for the federal Race to the Top initiative that will award nearly $400 million in grants to school systems that pledge to "personalize" learning for students, the U.S. Department of Education announced this week.

The winners of 15 to 25 grants are expected to be named in December. Out of 372 applications from around the country, federal officials said there were 61 finalists, including Boston and New York City public schools and the KIPP DC charter school network in Washington.

Among the applicants that did not advance in the competition are the city of New Haven, the Norwalk school system and the Capitol Region Education Council based in Hartford.

The Race to the Top contest, the government's attempt to prompt education reform, has previously been aimed at states. Connecticut has failed three times to receive funding.

If Hartford gets what it wants $30 million over four years to target grades 6 to 12 then that would mean every city high school student and their teachers would receive a tablet computer.

The school system's Race to the Top application requests $7.1 million for technology, including Web filtering software, insurance for the tablet computers and school-based technology specialists.

Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto said in a statement Tuesday that she was "thrilled" that the city is a finalist and that the grant would "help us carry on the aggressive implementation of our strategic operating plan."

School administrators say intervention is needed to keep students engaged in high school and to prepare them for college. Students in the city's nonmagnet high schools have scored poorly on standardized tests; in the application, Hartford contends that Race to the Top funding could help the school system close the achievement gap in the next decade.

Hartford asks for $16.8 million to personalize instruction for the estimated 10,000 students in middle and high school grades, including 2,924 identified as high-needs; and $6.04 million for a student development program that would implement state-mandated Student Success Plans that track students' interests, learning styles and academic and career goals.

The money would fund 49 new staff positions, including school counselors, administrators have told the school board. The application required signatures from the board and the Hartford Federation of Teachers.

Applicants were scored by three-person panels that considered criteria such as a "coherent reform vision," a past record of reform, a plan to prepare students for college and careers, and sustainability, according to guidelines from the education department.

In addition, "A successful applicant will provide teachers the information, tools and supports that enable them to meet the needs of each student and substantially accelerate and deepen each student's learning."

Bridgeport is led by Superintendent Paul Vallas, who implemented reform plans in the New Orleans Recovery School District, Chicago and Philadelphia before coming to Connecticut at the start of the year.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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