MNPS only TN district in running for new Race to the Top funds

Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 11:14pm

Metro Nashville Public Schools may have lost out on millions of dollars after a scuffle with the state over a particular charter school, but federal education officials may help the district more than make up for it.

MNPS is one of 61 finalists seeking a portion of $400 million in a district-focused Race to the Top contest to award districts leading the country in innovation to drive student performance.

“We have a terrific application,” said Jesse Register, director of schools. “It is a huge next step for us in this district.”

MNPS is the only district in the state to land in the final round. Federal education officials are expected to narrow down the remaining applicants to the top 15 to 25 by the end of the year.

Winners will take home $5 million to $40 million over four years for their district to use on local plans to personalize student learning, improve student achievement and teacher effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and ensure students are college- and career-ready.

MNPS asked for the maximum amount in its application, money that would be used largely on personnel to help develop specialized instruction, district officials say.

News about making the first cut comes after the district went to blows with the Tennessee Department of Education over ignoring a state order to approve Great Hearts Academies’ charter for a school to open its doors in the affluent West End area. While the school board contends it was working in the best interest of the district and watching out for diversity concerns, the state fined MNPS $3.4 million.

Changing laws to allow more charter schools was one of several pillars the state erected in 2010 to help win the federal government’s initial Race to the Top grant, an award that totalled more than $500 million statewide over four years.

“Remember, Great Hearts was just one school,” Register said. “Charter schools are part of the networks that we’re developing. They are a part of the grant that we’ve written, which probably makes us pretty unique in including our charter schools as part of our Race to the Top initiative.”

State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, who fought with the district over the controversial charter denial, applauded MNPS for making it to the final round of the federal competition.

“We are excited to have a Tennessee district among the finalists for the Race to the Top-District grant,” Huffman said. “Metro Nashville is a strong contender to win this national award, and we wish them luck in the last stages of the competition.”

The contest drew 372 applications representing 1,189 school districts across the country, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

8 Comments on this post:

By: westisbest on 11/28/12 at 6:43

MNPS has shown they aren't interested in improving schools for all the kids in the county. I hope they don't get it because I will still be forced to pay the money for my kids to go to private school.

By: courier37027 on 11/28/12 at 7:02

No, this time the new contest moniker "Race to the Top" shows this district is serious. The old names and programs were simply mirages, even smoke and mirrors. This is a new MNPS. (sarcasm)

By: cowboyjoe on 11/28/12 at 7:23

Lucky us, wonder what strings come attached to this generous federal handout.

By: d4deli on 11/28/12 at 8:53

The cost of winning is hefty. Those millions seem insignificant as they spread to the wind here and there. In the mean time, the real price tag is the extra load on staff and teachers. They have so many more hoops to jump through along the accountability trail. Last years shot in the arm was a one time thing. Those monies are long gone, but the accountability remains. You can't throw enough money at the school programs and make a difference. And the saddest victim of this windfall, are the teachers and students. They have some of what they need one year, and the next year, nothing. In the meantime, the accountability seems to linger for years. The hours of paperwork and meetings rob teachers of the time they need to present quality lessons. If only teachers could actually have the time to teach. 85% of their day is classroom management, trying to contain the student who have no positive behavior or social skills, and the students who are there to learn lose out.

By: pswindle on 11/28/12 at 11:16

I hope it works. Metro needs something, and this money would not hurt.

By: Specter47 on 11/28/12 at 12:54

Gee, I wonder where this money comes from? It's not Race To The Top. It's Race To The Bottom...of my pockets. The Feds stealing more of our money to throw at a problem and getting nothing in return for it. Happens over and over again...good money following bad. And the results just keeps getting worse.

By: kellyfretz on 11/28/12 at 1:52

The last time we received Race to the Top funds, it cost my son 10% of his grade, since part of the requirement was to add his TCAP scores to the final grade. I can hardly wait to see what else this is going to cost my son.

The fact that Jesse Register doesn't understand that charter schools are detrimental to the public school system is yet one more reason we need to find another Superintendent of Schools in Davidson County. Of course, this is only my humble opinion.

By: pswindle on 11/30/12 at 8:10

Give us a pen and paper and we write beautifully.