BATON ROUGE, LA — Louisiana has been awarded a $17.4 million Round Three Race to the Top (R2T) grant. The state is among seven states that will share the $200 million, according to the announcement made by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) today. Only nine states that were runner-ups in Phase Two were eligible to apply for the third round of the federal grant.
Governor Jindal said, "Improving our education system has been a top priority, and today's announcement is a recognition of our previous reform efforts that include implementing value added teacher evaluations, and our work to improve student outcomes in science, technology, engineering, and math classes. These funds will support our efforts to give students a world class learning experience in science, technology, engineering and math, which are critical fields as we work to prepare our students for the 21st century workforce."
Race to the Top was authorized through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). USDOE officials have said Round Three, like Rounds One and Two, is designed to encourage states to adopt aggressive reforms, but puts more emphasis on enriching Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives.
Louisiana's Phase Three application, the Louisiana Education Reform Plan, addresses standards and assessments, the collection and use of data, school turnaround strategies, and effective support for teachers and school leaders. The four-year plan also outlines strategies to enhance the state's current STEM program. Reform activities already underway and detailed in the state's R2T application include the implementation of Act 54 and the state's adoption and transition to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and CCSS-Aligned Assessments.
"We are eager to expand on Louisiana's reform initiatives," Acting State Superintendent of Education Ollie Tyler said. "These additional resources will benefit children across Louisiana as we continue to champion best practices."
In Louisiana, 20 districts and 28 charter schools signed on as Participating Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in Round Three. Through their commitment to adopt identified school turnaround and reform strategies, these schools and districts will directly benefit from 57 percent of Louisiana's allocated R2T grant. In total, these Participating LEAs represent more than 37 percent of Louisiana's public school student population, 41 percent of the state's total free and reduced meal population, and nearly 47 percent of Louisiana's minority student population.
While Participating LEAs will receive flow-through dollars, education leaders emphasized Louisiana's application is designed to ensure all students benefit from the federal dollars.
Specific statewide initiatives to be funded by the grant are the expansion of the state's existing EAGLE system, which allows teachers to measure the progress of their students, and a staffing initiative to assist districts and schools in recruiting and placing highly-qualified teachers in high-need STEM areas.
"We're grateful that Louisiana's progress and commitment to reform is being recognized through this grant award," Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Penny Dastugue said. "And by integrating our reform efforts and leveraging our resources, we'll put this funding to good use, so that all our students benefit from these federal dollars."