Newark Public Schools and a consortium of Monmouth County school districts led by Neptune Township are among 61 finalists for the next round of federal Race to the Top funding, culled from more than 20 initial applicants from New Jersey.
The finalists were announced by the U.S. Department of Education this week, less than a month after more than 370 districts and groups of districts filed their initial proposals for a share of the $400 million in the Race to the Top competition.
Representing more than 200 districts, the other finalists include New York City, Baltimore, Boston, and St. Louis schools.
“These finalists are setting the curve for the rest of the country with innovative plans to drive education reform in the classroom,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
“This competition was designed to support local efforts to close the achievement gap and transform the learning environment in a diverse set of districts," he said, "but no matter who wins, children across the country will benefit from the clear vision and track records of success demonstrated by these finalists.”
Fifteen to 25 winners are expected to be named by the end of the December.
Much like the Race to the Top program for states held for the past three years, the district competition is focusing on pressing local schools to pursue specific educational reforms and strategies.
For this program, the emphasis is on building “personalized learning” programs and strategies, with a big focus on technology. Each applicant is seeking between $5 million and $40 million, based on their enrollments.
Led by Neptune Township, the Monmouth consortium –- including Belmar, Bradley Beach, and Neptune City -- is seeking $13.2 million that would help build the network for using mobile technology like laptops and handheld devices to create “digital portfolios” that can track students’ work from kindergarten through high school.
“The Coastal Monmouth Education Alliance is deeply appreciative of the federal team's review of so many applications in just one month's time and is gratified to be included as one of the Department's 61 finalists nationwide,” said Neptune superintendent David Mooij.
“Should the consortium be successful, the grant will jumpstart the four partnering districts' efforts to implement personalized learning in a technological environment,” he said. Details of the Newark application were not available yesterday.