News Column

Race to the Top: Miami-Dade School District Picked a Winner

Dec. 11, 2012

Laura Isensee

Miami-Dade will receive $30 million from the federal government's latest education grant competition, called Race to the Top.

The latest round of the competition doled out $400 million directly to 16 districts, including three charter groups.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools was the biggest district and the only one in Florida picked as a winner by the U.S. Department of Education Tuesday.

The money will fund more "blended" learning, or combined traditional teaching and online work, in middle school math programs, under the project proposed by Miami-Dade.

Broward County Public Schools had also applied for a grant, but lost out.

The four-year grants range from $10 million to $40 million, depending on how many students in each district.

Miami-Dade will use its share for math labs for middle schools. They will be modeled after its iPrep magnets, which Superintendent Alberto Carvalho started three years ago. Students at iPrep take both online courses and traditional classes with a teacher. The model is dubbed "blended" learning in education parlance and will be replicated for math in middle school.

According to the district, students will get digital resources and support from two teachers in every classroom.

"It is a ground-breaking approach to the teaching of mathematics in all middle schools, which will subsequently trickle into our secondary classrooms," according to a release issued by the district.

Said Carvalho in a statement: "This initiative will help us to continue towards our goal to make sure that every child in the district, no matter their zip code, can receive a world-class education. It leverages federal funding in advancing local innovation in 21st learning environments."

The two South Florida districts were among 372 applications in the Race to the Top program for districts. All had to pitch projects that met goals like personalized learning, improving student achievement and preparing students for college and careers.

Union stewards with United Teachers of Dade were reluctant to sign off on the grant application earlier this year. They first voted against it, but in October at an emergency meeting, they voted to approve it amid contract negotiations with the district.

Support from labor unions was a stumbling block for other large districts, like Los Angeles.

Source: (c)2012 The Miami Herald Distributed by MCT Information Services

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