Education
5:00 am
Mon November 25, 2013

NC School Districts Among 'Race To The Top' Finalists

Three North Carolina school districts have made it to the final round in a federal Race to the Top grant competition. Cabarrus, Burke and Winston-Salem/Forsyth are among 31 school districts nationwide that could win millions of dollars to go toward innovating and improving their schools.

Students in a Guilford County classroom.
Guilford County students used Race To The Top funds to give tablet computers to students. Two of this year's three North Carolina finalists hope for grants to fund a similar program.
Credit Guilford County Schools

Burke County Public Schools is asking for about $20 million in a four-year proposal that would offer digital devices to all of the county's students and professional development for the teachers to learn how to incorporate the technology in classrooms.

Melanie Honeycutt, chief information officer for Burke County Public Schools, says she has big hopes for the grant.

"So, we're looking at the grant as, yes, it'll provide "stuff," it will provide devices to every student, but the big meat of our proposal is about changing the way instruction happens at the schools," she said.

The proposal from Winston-Salem/Forsyth schools focuses on what the county considers a weak spot -- middle school literacy. With more professional development and the integration of digital devices, school officials hope the grant can offer a more personalized education.

Cabarrus County Public Schools is asking the U.S. Department of Education to grant money for a three-pronged plan that involves cultivating student ownership of learning, expanding the reach of effective teachers and incorporating more technology in the classrooms. The grant would initially affect 9 schools in the district as it was written with a school feeder system in mind.

Jason Van Heukelum, deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Cabarrus County Schools, says the ultimate hope is to introduce a new model of instruction that could be scaled up to the entire district and raise student achievement over the years. 

"The money really allows you to jump out and just take a huge and risk and really think what could education look like, how it could it be different for our kids?" he said. "So, it gives you this impetus to really try to change some things in a big way." 

The U.S. Department of Education will award a total of $120 million among five to ten winners that will be announced by the end of the year. Last year, Guilford County Schools won $30 million to provide tablet computers to middle school students.