CONYERS -- Rockdale County Public Schools is not one of the 16 winning school districts across the nation to be awarded some of the $400 million in federal grants.
The U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday that 16 applicants in 11 states and the District of Columbia won the 2012 Race to the Top district competition, which will provide each winner with between $10 to $40 million in funding to support locally-developed plans to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps and prepare every student for success in college and careers.
In October, RCPS submitted an application for nearly $30 million, intended in part to help the system create an equitable and efficient system of school choice at each level, which is in line with the system's strategic plan.
"We are proud of the efforts of our staff and greatly appreciate the support of our teachers and community at large," said RCPS Superintendent Richard Autry in a press release Wednesday. "Even though we did not receive the award, I believe the process yielded extremely positive effects for the district. Our vision for the future for RCPS was clarified and communicated to internal and external members of our school community, including school leaders, teachers, parents and a wide range of community partners. The blueprint for the future is clear and tangible for all of our investors in public education."
He said the system is disappointed in the outcome, but that will only be temporary.
"We will continue to press forward with our innovative initiatives," Autry said. "In fact, our children are counting on us to do so. I thank everyone for their contribution in the grant application process, and be assured that we will forge ahead."
RCPS received more than 20 letters of support for the project from people like U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, U.S. Congressman Hank Johnson and state Sen. Ron Ramsey.
The plan could have helped RCPS develop more speciality options, like it already has with the Rockdale Career Academy and the Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology.
It is unclear now how that district plan, called Personalized Learning Assures College/Career Empowerment for Students, or PLACES, will be funded.
RCPS developed plans to have options for all students in schools and programs and some criteria-based academic programs like the Magnet School that may focus on rigorous areas like science and technology.
Next year, a feeder program already is being developed at Honey Creek Elementary School and Memorial Middle School to eventually get students to the Magnet School, focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM. Some of the program already is being funded through a separate RTT grant previously awarded to RCPS.
The project is expected to allow the exploration of student interests, increased rigor, exposure to student-selected pathways of student and post-secondary preparation.
The grant also sought further funding for early learning initiatives in RCPS and the STARS community partnership, which were funded through other previously awarded grants.
None of the other finalists in Georgia was awarded the federal grants; three other systems were named as part of the 61 national finalists last month -- the Fulton County Board of Education, Haralson County School System and Morgan County Charter School System.
The winners were selected from 372 applications the U.S. DOE received earlier this year. Applicants were evaluated and scored by independent peer reviewers.