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Federal Grant Opportunities

To:Superintendents and Charter School Leaders
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:August 6, 2009

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As many of you have heard by now, on July 25 President Obama publicly released the draft RFP for the long-awaited Race to the Top grants, and announced other wide-sweeping federal grant opportunities aimed at improving public education.

These federal grants represent an unprecedented opportunity to build on what has been successful, and to conceptualize major reforms that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive. Through Race to the Top alone, Massachusetts has the opportunity to secure as much as $300 million or more over the next several years.

Some of the grants will be competitive and others will distributed by formula. In most cases states are the eligible applicants. Districts and non-profits are the eligible applicants for the Investing in Innovation Fund, and states and/or districts are eligible to apply for the Teacher Incentive Fund. We plan to aggressively pursue these funding opportunities and will be communicating with you about your interest in partnering with us on applications.

Competitive Grants

  • Race to the Top This $4.35 billion competitive grant will be awarded to states for past accomplishments and to create incentives for future improvements. Winning states will develop plans that address what the administration is calling the four "assurances" that drive school improvements: school turnaround, high standards and college and career readiness, better use of data, and teacher effectiveness. This grant would provide us with an opportunity to align and advance our work in these four key areas. Winning states will be required to distribute 50 percent of the funds to districts based on the Title I formula.

  • Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems This $250 million competitive grant program is intended to encourage states to design, develop and implement statewide P20 longitudinal data systems to capture, analyze and use student data from PK through college and the workforce. Our application will build from our Race to the Top proposal and map out significant steps to link our separate state student data systems from early education through higher ed.

Non-Competitive Grants

  • Title I School Improvement Grants This fund will total about $3.5 billion, and is intended to provide states and school districts with money to leverage change and turn around Title I schools identified for improvement, corrective action or restructuring. This grant will be awarded by formula to states, and we expect to receive close to $50 million. We plan to use these dollars as a major funding source for our work with districts under our new accountability and assistance framework to rapidly accelerate improvement in our lowest performing schools.

  • State Educational Technology Grants This fund will total about $650 million, and we will receive $10.5 million over two years. These dollars are intended to improve student academic achievement through the use of technology in schools, to ensure that every student is technologically literate by the end of eighth grade, and to encourage the effective integration of technology with teacher training and curriculum development. ESE staff are currently developing an RFP through which districts and collaboratives will compete for two-year grants for proposals that focus on effective uses of data tools to drive instruction, and promising practices in integrating technology to close the achievement gap.

As I mentioned earlier, district and charter school leaders should pay particular attention to the Investing in Innovation Fund and the Teacher Incentive Fund.

The Investing in Innovation Fund is a competitive grant that will be awarded directly to districts and/or charter schools or to nonprofit organizations working in collaboration with one or more districts or a consortium of schools. This fund is intended to support efforts with significant evidence of success in improving student achievement, as well as those designed to support the development, replication and further evaluation of promising, innovative practices. We hope to work with many of you to help in the development of proposals that aim to advance statewide reform work in each of the four key assurance areas.

The Teacher Incentive Fund, which was established in 2006, is a $200 million investment aimed at supporting performance-based teacher and principal compensation systems in high-need schools. To qualify, applicants must agree to establish a system that provides teachers and principals in high-need schools with differentiated levels of compensation based on student achievement and classroom evaluations. This competitive grant will be awarded to districts, states and non-profits.

This is a very exciting time in public education, and these grants represent an unprecedented opportunity for public schools here in the Commonwealth and across the nation. To that end I have asked Carrie Conaway, head of our Office of Strategic Planning, Research and Evaluation to coordinate our efforts in the weeks and months ahead. She will be working with members of my Senior Staff and other staff members from across the agency. Carrie can be reached by email at cconaway@doe.mass.edu or by phone at 781-338-3108.

I am very excited to begin the process of planning for our applications. These unexpected federal dollars will provide us with the funds we need to move forward on reforms we would otherwise be unable to advance, given the current economic climate. These are opportunities that we - and the Commonwealth - cannot afford to miss.

Thank you again for the outstanding work you do every for the nearly 1 million students we serve in our public schools.



Last Updated: August 6, 2009
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