IT is a great day for innovation and collaboration as South King County schools savor the victory of winning a $40 million Race to the Top federal grant.
Schools in Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, Seattle and Tukwila make up the three-year-old Road Map District Consortium, a network of ideas and efforts from early learning to college prep to support students from ages 3 to 23.
The 16 winners nationwide, selected from 371 applicants, shared a common theme of being inventive and inclusive in their approach to education reforms.
In South King County, the usual working group of superintendents, teachers and principals expanded to involve local mayors, business leaders and the King County Housing Authority. The housing authority, with its connection to low-income families, was an insightful inclusion.
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This is a game changer and a good bet to dramatically improve education for the 150,000 students in the Road Map District’s 261 schools.
Coherent plans are in place for the money. They include: increasing the number of children ready for kindergarten and raising the quality of instruction in math and science and for English-language learners.
Early intervention for struggling students is a key focus of the grant. But another smart focus helps students plan bright futures that include college and career training.
Free SAT and PSAT tests and more training for middle- and high-school guidance counselors is the right approach.
The money will be used to add International Baccalaureate programs and Advanced Placement courses and train more teachers to teach them.
Expansions in science, technology, engineering and math and international courses will serve workplace needs unique to our local economy.
In the past, Washington failed to garner a state Race to the Top grant. The Obama administration revamped the rules this year to include local school districts, not just states, in the competition.
That turned out to be the perfect opportunity for a group of motivated school districts to showcase their ongoing innovative work.
There’s no need for other school districts to wait on the state for education reforms. The Road Map District Consortium offers a smart template.