Race To The Top District Grant
In December of 2013, it was announced that Houston ISD was one of 21 districts across the nation that would be awarded a Federal Race to the Top District Grant. Houston ISD is using the $30 million in Race to the Top District (RTTT-D) funds as seed money to support the implementation of new approach to teaching and learning that combines rigorous academics with exposure to real-world professions – truly linking what students do in the classroom to what they will be doing when they graduate from high school.
Critical support for project implementation is being rolled out over four years as new cohorts are trained and coached in preparation for pathway launches designed to meet the needs of their unique student populations. Equity and diversity are critical as pathways will be designed and replicated across the district strategically to ensure access to all.
Cohort 1 consists of eight high school campuses, ten middle schools, and twenty elementary schools. The first pathways at the high school campuses were launched in the fall of the 2014-2015 school year. Critical ongoing training is made possible by RTTT-D funds, beginning the school year before the launch and continuing as each campus builds capacity. Cohort 2, with forty-three additional campuses, will launch in 2015-2016; Cohort 3, with thirty campuses, will launch in 2016-2017; and cohort 4, with eight campuses, will launch in 2017-2018.
In addition to building capacity, Race to the Top funding allows for unique opportunities at each educational level. High schools will be equipped with a Linked Learning Counselor, who not only will assist students at their home campus, but will also work with students in the feeder pattern middle schools to identify their interests and choose pathways throughout the district that will nurture and develop these interests.
All campuses are receiving funds to pay for tutorials throughout the school year, as well as Summer Bridge programs for incoming 6th and 9th graders and exiting 12th graders. Professional development is another high priority and significant funds have been set aside for teachers to attend training and substitutes to cover classrooms as teachers expand their knowledge and skills.
At elementary, middle and high school campuses, RTTT-D funding is creating opportunities for students to go on college and industry field trips in order to broaden their horizons and expand their knowledge of careers that are available to them as they graduate and pursue post-secondary goals. Elementary and middle school students will learn about financial literacy through a partnership with Junior Achievement that culminates in field trips to BizTown and Finance Park, JA’s capstone programs which give students the opportunity to run their own cities.
All campuses are receiving funds for software programs that support their campus goals. Additionally, laptops and white boards are being purchased for elementary and middle schools. This additional technology will greatly increase student access to the internet and other resources that will assist in the further exploration of careers.
For more information about the Race To The Top District Grant, or to see Houston ISD’s winning application please visit the U.S. Department of Education website.