Massachusetts, after a series of recent steps to improve low-performing schools, has been awarded $250 million of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top education grants to help states with innovations.
The U.S. Education Department said Tuesday that Massachusetts is among nine states and the District of Columbia to receive money as second-round winners of the competition. They share $3.4 billion in grants. First-round winners Tennessee and Delaware got a total of $600 million.
States were rewarded for reforms intended to turn around low-performing schools through such things as better student testing and teacher accountability, and lifting caps on charter schools.
Gov. Deval Patrick, who traveled to Washington to meet with Race to the Top decision makers this month, said the federal money will help the state to close its achievement gap.
“This is a momentous day for our students, our teachers and our future,” he said. “And though our kids top the nation in student achievement, these resources will help us reach those we have not reached, the kids stuck in the achievement gap.”
Patrick signed a bill in January to overhaul the state’s education system by allowing for more charter schools in the state’s lowest-performing school districts. The legislation was also designed to help the state narrow the achievement gap between students from different economic backgrounds.
After losing out in the first round of grants, Massachusetts honed its application for the second round, when it was among 19 finalists.
In July, the state adopted national standards for English and math curricula to boost its standing in the competition.
The state’s updated proposal also outlined a new system to evaluate teacher and administrator effectiveness and included plans to ensure high poverty schools get good teachers and that educators get what they need to help students excel.
Under the reform bill, half of the funds that Massachusetts receives from Race to the Top goes to districts that agree to changes in troubled schools, and 276 school districts and charter schools have now done so.
The Massachusetts Teachers Association, which has endorsed Patrick for re-election, has said it was in full support of the state’s application, including plans to reward teachers for working in hard-to-staff schools.
U.S. Sen. John Kerry and state Senate President Therese Murray said the new funding will bolster Massachusetts education overhaul efforts and help it continue to be a leader in education.
“The hits keep on coming, and we’re keeping our eye on the prize which is winning more resources for Massachusetts to support reform,” Kerry said.
Murray said the state has an “ongoing commitment to always do the best for our schools and our students.”