Race to the Top

Article Published: Dec. 17, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

The Watauga County school system could be in a Race To The Top over the next three years.
The school system may benefit from federal stimulus funds designed to promote technology in the classroom and shift accountability models, part of a $4.2 billion nationwide program.

Superintendent Marty Hemric and school board member Steve Combs recently attended a meeting in Raleigh in which superintendents, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction officials and Gov. Beverly Perdue discussed the Race To The Top grant.

The competitive grant is likely to provide around $300,000 to local schools, Hemric told the school board Tuesday. The amount of the grant is based on the percentage of Title I students and system size. Hemric said while the grant is weighted toward lower-performing systems, the county could receive "a substantial amount of funding" through 2014.

The grant should address college- and career-ready standards and reliable assessments, data systems, teacher effectiveness and interventions for lower-performing schools. Hemric said the strategic goals for the state's pursuit of grants focus on increasing graduation rates, college-going rates, career readiness and achievement growth while decreasing the need for remedial courses.

Hemric said state curriculum reforms were focusing on preparing students with skills and behaviors needed for the digital future. Initial grant proposals are due in January, which Hemric said reduces the timeline and requires quick action on partnerships.

In his memo to the school board, Hemric said, "The greatest change I perceive (from existing programs) is the value-added approach to accountability centered on student growth and the shift to a measure of 21st Century job- and college-readiness in our students--both of which I fully embrace with enthusiasm....A movement toward growth-centered accountability has been a long time in coming. The old model of basing our federal measure of adequate yearly progress on proficiency fell short of depicting the actual value our teachers add to student learning."

Combs said in talking with other school leaders from around the state, he was impressed by how well Watauga County was advancing toward modern, technology-driven instruction, saying the system was far ahead of many other systems in the state. He attributed it to forward-thinking leadership over many years.

Hemric asked the board members to discuss the grant details, saying a decision should be made by the January board meeting. He said state leaders supported the opportunity because it continues implementation of reform already taking place in the state's schools.

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