HISD wins $30 million in federal Race to the Top funds to link students to careers, college from earliest age

The Houston Independent School District learned Tuesday that it has won nearly $30 million in federal Race to the Top funding, the only urban school system to be named a winner in this round of district competition.

The announcement was made at noon, Houston time, by Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C.

“This funding is an acknowledgment of the work we’ve done, as a giant urban district, to personalize learning to each student – and a belief by the Department of Education in the work we intend to do,” said Superintendent Terry Grier.

The funds will go to “Linked Learning,” a new model of teaching from elementary through high school that enables students to begin early college and career readiness through project-based learning. Youngsters move on to exploring aptitudes and life interests in middle school, and focus on career academies in high school.

HISD high schools in the first phase of the model are Furr, Eastwood, Reagan, Chavez, Milby, Westside, Lee and Sterling.

Other winners, sharing $120 million in funding, are the Clarendon County School District, a consortium of four rural districts in South Carolina; the Clarksdale Municipal School District in Mississippi; the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative, a consortium of 18 rural districts; and the Springdale School District in Arkansas.

“These winners serve as an example to the rest of the country for how to develop innovative plans to drive education reform and improve student achievement,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “These diverse, trailblazing districts have a clear vision and track record of success for models of personalized learning that aim for every child to graduate from high school ready for college and careers.”

The Texas Legislature enacted a complex set of new regulations, known as HB5, that are beginning to take effect this year and require districts to help students set clear, customized college and career readiness paths, customized to each students.

“By enabling us to move forward with Linked Learning, the Department of Education is allowing HISD to enact a model that will immediately be useful to districts throughout Texas, one that can serve as an example for personalized learning throughout the nation,” Grier said.

This is the second major national honor for HISD this year. In September, the district won the Broad Prize for Urban Education, becoming the first two-time winner of the award.

More than 200 districts applied for Race to the Top funding. For more on the applicants, their programs, and the decision-making process, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

For more information about the HISD Grant Department, click here.