In second attempt, Florida wins Race to the Top money

08/25/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Florida is set to receive $700 million in federal Race to the Top grant money. The grant aims to raise student achievement through rewarding teachers whose students show the most improvement over a five-year period. Today Governor Charlie Crist paid a visit to his alma mater, St. Pete High, where he spoke of the importance of the grant.

The Sunshine State lost out on the grant earlier this year. The state’s first application had little support from teacher’s unions, The governor says an effort to build consensus among most teachers’ unions and school districts is what spelled success this time.

Kim Black heads the Pinellas Classroom Teachers’ Association. She said the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 6, a law linking teacher pay to student test scores, created a more inclusive environment for hashing out the details of the state’s proposal.

With the grant, Florida hopes to achieve milestones like slashing the achievement gap between whites and minority students and boosting dual enrollment numbers. Pinellas Schools Superintendent Julie Janssen said now the challenge is to come up with a meaningful way of assessing teacher and student performance.

Florida Education Association President Andy Ford said teacher pay will likely still be connected to how well students do in class.

Half of the $700 million Florida will receive will go to statewide initiatives, and half will go to individual school districts. Pinellas County could get up to $6 million, and Hillsborough may see as much as $24 million. Ford said the first dollars each county gets will go to the schools that need them most.

Individual school districts now have 90 days to submit proposals to the state Board of Education proposing how they’ll meet the state’s goals.

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