KIPP DC wins $10 million grant in Race to the Top competition

December 11, 2012

Charter school operator KIPP DC is among 16 winners of the federal government’s Race to the Top District grant competition, U.S. Department of Education officials announced Tuesday.

The winners, which include traditional school systems as well as other charters, will share nearly $400 million in grants for classroom-level initiatives meant to personalize student learning and improve the effectiveness of teachers and principals.

KIPP DC will receive $10 million to expand the Capital Teacher Residency, a teacher-training program it runs in partnership with another local charter school, E.L. Haynes.

Teaching residents are novices who spend a year working in the classroom alongside a high-performing mentor, learning through that hands-on experience as well as from coaching and professional-development courses. There are 67 residents in the program this year.

With the help of the federal grant, the program will grow to train 415 teachers during the next four years. About one-quarter are expected to leave KIPP DC and E.L. Haynes after their residency ends to work in other local charter schools.

“We are very inspired by the support for the teacher-training program and the positive impact that it will have, not only for KIPP DC but also for schools across the city,” said Susan Schaeffler, chief executive of KIPP DC.

KIPP DC also will use some of the grant money to improve technology, including data systems that track and provide real-time feedback on what students are and aren’t learning.

The prominent charter operates 10 schools across Washington and is part of a national network of schools known for raising the achievement of poor and minority students.

Donald E. Graham, chief executive of the Washington Post Co., is a member of KIPP DC’s board of trustees.

Race to the Top is the Obama administration’s signature education reform initiative, a $4.3 billion series of grant competitions to reward states and school districts that adopt policies the administration favors.

In this latest round of the competition, more than 350 applicants sought grants of up to $40 million each.

Their proposals were scored by independent reviewers. D.C. public schools and Fairfax County public schools were among the applicants not winning grants.

Winners include two charter school operators in Texas; traditional school systems ranging in size from tiny Galt Joint Union School District in California’s agricultural Central Valley to urban Miami-Dade County in Florida; and two large consortia of school districts, including a group of 24 school systems in rural Kentucky and a group of Seattle area school systems in Washington state.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said politics had no role in determining the outcome of the competition.

He said the department was “absolutely agnostic” about awarding grants to traditional school systems vs. charter schools, which have been embraced by the Obama administration as an important part of school reform.

“We just looked for good applications,” Duncan said.

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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