Bedford NY Schools push to the Top for Federal “Race To Top” Funding

Bedford school officials hope to have the first leg of their application for federal “Race to the Top” funding completed by November.

Drew Patrick, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction,  outlined the application process during the Oct. 27 school board meeting. The deadline to submit the application to state Education Department is Nov. 8.

The district would receive $98,000 during a four year period beginning next year if their grant application is accepted.

“This application is so specific that is a given that any school district that takes the time to fill it out is going to be given strong consideration,” Patrick said.

Race to the Top is a federal education reform program funded with $4 billion in stimulus money. New York, which received $700 million,  is one of 16 states awarded millions of dollars in funding.

The state must allocate 50 percent of the funding they receive to school districts. Monies will be divvied up to school districts the same formula that is used to give Title 1 one funds, according to Drew. Title 1 schools are schools with a large number of low income families.

State were given funding on the condition that they enact reforms in the four area:  adopting common educational standards and assessments, building data systems to track student achievement, training effective teachers and turning around low achieving schools.

“Bedford can access this money, really, in three out of these four areas,” Patrick said. “We’re not a low achieving school, so that’s not an area where we need to, even if we could, access funding for.”

Even though Bedford NY schools aren’t low achieving, the school district would still need to develop a plan to improve competency in English language arts and math test score on the fourths and eighth grade levels.

More example, 56.7 percent of students in the state tested as proficients in the fourth grade  English language arts exam in 2009-2010 while 71 percent tested as proficient in the Bedford school district. Even though the school district’s results are better than the statewide results, would still be required to improve to performance target goal of 80 percent by the 2013-2014 school year in order to comply with Race to the Top.

Similar performance goals would carry through to the high school level. Separate benchmarks would also be established for different sub groups in those classes such as black, Latino, disabled and economically disadvantaged students.

Benchmarks would also be set up for the number of students who enroll in college and return the following year.

Eric Karle, a member of the school board, wondered if it is worth to go through all of hassle of dealing with Race to the Top for what amounts to $24,500 a year for a four year period. He said the school district was already engaging in many of these initiatives and there still remains questions about the program, such as the penalty for missing benchmarks.

Karle also said the costs to get many of these initiatives up and running will be more than the district would receive from Race to the Top.

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