Bloomberg News

Obama Offers School Districts $400 Million to Tailor Classes

May 22, 2012

President Barack Obama will offer school districts the chance to compete for awards from a $400 million program with plans to individualize classes and improve student achievement.

The awards, of as much as $25 million each, will target districts that “focus on transforming instruction so that it meets all students’ learning abilities,” the Education Department said in a statement today. The department will take comment on the criteria for the awards competition through June 8, according to the statement.

The competition is the latest addition to Obama’s $4 billion Race to the Top program, which during the past three years has distributed grants to states on the basis of plans to raise educational standards and tie teachers’ evaluations to student performance. The district-based plan will encourage efforts to help teachers determine which students have mastered subject matter and help others catch up, according to the statement.

“We are inviting districts to show us how they can personalize education for a set of students in their schools,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in the statement. “We need to take classroom learning beyond a one-size-fits-all model and bring it into the 21st century.”

The program intrudes on local educational decisions and adds to the bureaucracy faced by school staffers, said California Republican Representative Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has approved two pieces of legislation that would give states and districts greater control over classrooms, he said in a separate statement.

‘Questionable Impact’

“I urge the president to stop dedicating more taxpayer dollars to new programs with questionable impact, and instead work with Congress to complete a reauthorization of elementary and secondary education law,” he said in the statement.

Districts applying for the funds must serve at least 2,500 students, 40 percent or more of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, according to the statement. The department expects to announce awards for a total of 15 to 20 districts in December, an official said on a conference call with reporters.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Lauerman in Boston at jlauerman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at lwolfson@bloomberg.net


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