Governor Crist Signs Florida’s ‘Race to the Top’ Application for $700 Million in Federal Education Stimulus Grants

Jan 15, 2010

Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed Florida’s application for over $700 million in federal education stimulus grants at an elementary school in Orlando today, January 15, 2009.  Winners of the funding program, which is known as “Race to the Top,” are expected to be announced in mid-April of 2010.

Fifty-nine of Florida’s 67 school districts, three lab schools and the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind submitted signed Memorandums of Understanding on January 12, 2010 to indicate their support for the State’s efforts to obtain a portion of the $4.35 billion federal dollars available through the Race to the Top competition. Should Florida be successful in the competition, these districts will now be eligible to receive their share of Florida’s total award.  The districts would then implement locally-developed comprehensive education reform plans.

For more information about the Race to the Top competition, visit

The news release issued by the Governor’s office is reprinted below.


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Governor Crist Signs Florida’s Race to the Top Application

Approval could provide more than $700 million to continue increasing student learning and quality education

ORLANDO – Governor Charlie Crist today signed Florida’s overall application for more than $700 million of the $4.35 billion federal dollars available through the Race to the Top competition while visiting Mollie E. Ray Elementary School in Orlando. Half of the total award will be distributed to participating school districts according to a federal funding formula to implement locally-developed comprehensive education reform plans focused on accelerating student learning and improving the quality of education their schools provide. The remaining funds will support state-level projects benefiting all school districts statewide.

“Florida’s past education reform efforts have positioned us to succeed in this race, and I am grateful to Commissioner Smith and his team for their work to ensure a complete and high-quality application,” Governor Crist said. “The success of our grant application will allow us to further increase student achievement and teacher effectiveness, which will strengthen Florida’s talent pool of graduates entering our workforce.”

During the school visit, Governor Crist praised students, teachers and Principal Kathryn Shuler for achieving an “A” school grade last year, up from an “F” grade the previous year. Joining Governor Crist for the application signing ceremony were Education Commissioner Dr. Eric J. Smith and representatives of the Orange County School District, the Orange County School Board and district superintendents from throughout the Central Florida region.

“Race to the Top represents the future of education in our nation, and the strategies Florida is proposing as a part of our application will lift our schools to the next level of achievement,” said Commissioner Smith. “I’d like to thank all of our stakeholders for the tremendous support they have provided throughout this process, and I look forward to reporting back in April with some very good news.”

Florida’s grant application addresses the following strategies:

Curriculum Standards:

  • Adopt and implement national Common Core State Standards in English/language arts and mathematics as the new iteration of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, allowing for national comparisons of student achievement.
  • Provide Web-based student tutorial tools aligned to the new standards.
  • Create and build tools, such as performance descriptions detailing how particular elements of the standards can be tested for districts to aid in the adoption of the Common Core State Standards and to smooth the transition from the current Next Generation Sunshine State Standards to the new Common Core State Standards.
  • Provide professional development tools and resources to assist in the implementation of new standards such as a shared resource of “Highly Effective Teachers’ Instructional Materials” for use among districts.

Assessments of Student Learning:

  • Create statewide tiered item bank for differing state, district and school level access for the development of interim assessments using high-quality test items in math, science and social studies.
  • Conduct international benchmarking studies to establish a baseline that will compare Florida students’ current achievement to those of their international peers.
  • Provide formative assessment resources, including support for professional development to support high-quality classroom assessment aligned to the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards and the Common Core State Standards, once adopted.

Increased Use of Data:

  • Create a one-stop shop of all Florida Department of Education data resources for use by teachers and district staff.
  • Create training and professional development resources on how to use newly revised data-tracking system(s) for teachers, principals and administrators.
  • Create training tools for districts to utilize as they teach additional staff about the use of this new data-tracking system.
  • Establish processes to pre-populate applications with data already collected by the state to reduce time-consuming data entry at the district level.
  • Evaluate current data collection to determine what additional reports could be provided to benefit districts, such as data that could influence local student interventions or demonstrate early warning signs.

Teacher and Leader Quality:

  • In consultation with participating districts, develop better measures of student growth and learning gains for use by districts.
  • Provide funding to support experts dedicated to the development and implementation of new evaluation systems in each participating district and methods for districts to evaluate professional development based on improved instructional practices and student learning outcomes.
  • Establish a “Community of Practice” for participating districts to share best practices and monitor the success of district efforts as they develop local evaluation methods, professional development initiatives and other programs.
  • Issue competitive grants for model teacher and principal preparation programs that support the equitable student access to highly effective teachers, especially in critical shortage areas.
  • Secure an expert researcher in education human capital to analyze the effects of new evaluations, compensation and other initiatives on student performance, school performance and the education workforce, so that the efforts of districts throughout the state will inform Florida’s teaching profession as a whole.

Assistance for Struggling Schools:

  • Devise external partnerships for teacher recruitment and school leadership development.
  • Build district-level capacity to lead the school improvement process throughout districts and schools.
  • Offer professional development for current coaches, department chairs, and lead teachers through a Differentiated Accountability Academy.
  • In addition to reading coordinators, provide reading and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) coordinators to assist districts throughout the state.
  • Develop Community Compacts to engage business partners, family literacy programs and parent involvement in communities with struggling schools.
  • Partner with national organizations to support expansion of alternative management options for low-performing schools.
  • Promote education and college awareness in high-poverty communities through increased public awareness.

Earlier this week, 59 school districts, as well as three lab schools and the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, submitted signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) to the Florida Department of Education, indicating their support for Florida’s Race to the Top application efforts and making them eligible to receive a portion of the state’s award. In addition to extensive school district participation, five local teacher unions also submitted their support for Florida’s efforts in the competition. Teacher union presidents from Duval, Hamilton, Hillsborough, Jefferson and Sarasota counties each signed the MOU expressing their desire to work collaboratively with local education leadership to improve their learning environments.

The signing of the grant application comes the day after Governor Crist announced Education Week’s 2010 Quality Counts number-eight ranking of Florida’s education system.  The ranking indicates Florida’s decade of educational progress continued this year with a jump from last year’s number-10 ranking. The 2010 Quality Counts: Fresh Course, Swift Current report tracks state policies and performance across key areas of education and assigns each state with an overall point total to signify their education standing in the nation.

About Race to the Top

The U.S. Department of Education established a January 19, 2010, deadline for Phase I applications. Through the federal Race to the Top competition, the U.S. Department of Education has challenged all 50 states to propose 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. Winners of the competition are expected to be announced in mid-April of 2010.

For more information about the Race to the Top competition, visit


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