Published: Jan 04, 2011 7:12 PM EST
Updated: Jan 04, 2011 4:12 PM EST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla – The Florida Department of Education (DOE) Tuesday announced that 11 school districts have been approved to begin receiving local Race to the Top funding. Grant award notices totaling more than $25 million were sent to the approved districts indicating the amount of funding each district has been awarded, schedules for accessing the funds and other pertinent grant-related information.

The 11 approved districts are Alachua, Calhoun, Clay, DeSoto, Gulf, Hendry, Holmes, Manatee, Pasco, Putnam, and Washington. Applications for the remaining 55 grant-eligible districts are being evaluated on an ongoing basis with award notices going out as the approvals occur. All remaining award notices are expected to be issued by the end of the month.

“My congratulations go out to each of these districts for being the first to access their Race to the Top funding and getting a jumpstart on their local education reform efforts,” said Florida Education Commissioner Dr. Eric J. Smith. “We are moving full steam ahead on a track of unprecedented improvement in our schools and I’m looking forward to more of our districts receiving this important funding in the weeks ahead.”

As indicated in each grant award notice, approved districts will be able to draw down a percentage of their funds each quarter during the next four years. The funds will be used to meet specific Race to the Top deliverables that are outlined in each district’s grant application. Examples of these deliverables include the development of new teacher and principal evaluation systems that are based in part on student achievement, expansion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) coursework and program offerings, and driving improvement in persistently low-performing schools.

“The start of the flow of these funds into our participating school districts is a crucial milestone for Florida and the 2.6 million children who attend its public schools each year,” said Public Schools Chancellor Dr. Frances Haithcock. “Through these targeted reform efforts we can expect a revolution in the quality of education our children receive and their ability to build the prosperous life each one of them deserves.”

Through the $700 million federal Race to the Top grant, the U.S. Department of Education has challenged Florida to implement bold education reforms focused on helping struggling schools, elevating the effectiveness of teaching professionals and education leaders, building internationally recognized education standards and assessments, and improving state education data systems.

 For more information about Race to the Top, including a continuously updated list of each approved school district, please visit the Race to the Top Grant website.