Mississippi officially in the Race to the Top competition - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Mississippi officially in the Race to the Top competition

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) -

JACKSON, MS (MDE) - As a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the federal government has created Race To The Top (RTTT), a program that will allow eligible states to compete for $4.35 billion in competitive grants to help lead education reform and innovation in classrooms.

Tuesday, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) officially submitted its RTTT application. The state can receive up to $175 million to help lead innovative K-12 public education reform. Peer reviewers from across the country will judge each state's application based on its own merit. These funds will ensure academic opportunities to prepare students to compete in a global economy.

"The Department has worked very diligently to put together a comprehensive and competitive application that communicates the story of what we are already doing to transform public education, and what we are proposing to do to transform education for this state," State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tom Burnham said.

RTTT grants center around four categories of funding: 

  • Adopting internationally benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace
  • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals
  • Building data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals how they can improve their practices
  • Turning around low-performing schools

"We have collaborated with local school district superintendents, neighboring states, including Tennessee and Louisiana, and various members of the private and non- profit business community to seek input and receive valuable information to help structure our RTTT application to be accurate and effective," said Deputy State Superintendent of Education Dr. Lynn House, who is leading the project.

This is the second round of applications for the RTTT competitive grants. There were 40 states that submitted applications during the first round and only two were funded – Tennessee and Delaware.

"With the passage of the Children First Act of 2009, a more rigorous curriculum and assessment system and a new accountability model, Mississippi is in a very unique position to be extremely competitive for these funds. Federal officials have made it clear that no longer are they giving states funding based on need – they are awarding grants based on real education reform. In a down economy, K-12 education has to take advantage of funding sources to expand and improve the academic experiences for our students," added Burnham.

Mississippi's RTTT application was submitted with supporting letters from Governor Haley Barbour, Lt. Governor Phil Bryant, Speaker of the House Billy McCoy, United States Senator Thad Cochran and United States Congressman Bennie Thompson. Other letters of support were submitted by House and Senate Education Chairs Cecil Brown and Videt Carmichael, various education officials and members from private and non-profit businesses.

Once the application has been reviewed, states that are chosen to move on to the next round of the process will be invited to Washington in August to present their applications to United States Department of Education officials.

The second round of funding for RTTT competitive grants is scheduled to be announced in September 2010.

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