RTTT-D Competition and Small High-Poverty Districts

Last Updated: August 28, 2012

This article appeared in the August 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

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The federal Race to the Top program is now in its third round and this year’s competition includes a program aimed exclusively at school districts (Local Education Associations/LEAs). The competitive grant program is focused on classroom level reform efforts that personalize education for all students and emphasize the relationship between educators and students. Applicants must file an online Intent to Apply by August 30.

Rural Provisions

The Race to the Top-Districts (RTTT-D) program includes several provisions for rural LEAs. On one hand, rural districts are given separate Absolute Priority status from non-rural districts. On the other hand, only districts with 2,000 students may apply directly. Those with fewer students must apply in consortia of at least 10 districts. This means smaller rural districts must establish partnerships, align goals, and coordinate the efforts of multiple districts in addition to writing the grant. This provision has drawn critique from several organizations including the National School Boards Association.

Further, RTTT-D includes a Competitive Preference Priority for applicants that “integrate public and private resources to augment schools’ core resources.” The isolation of many rural communities defines a lack of access to public and private resources, especially in high-poverty rural places.

Generally, rural districts are at a disadvantage in competitive grant situations because they are smaller and have fewer financial resources, giving them less ability to hire grant writers or assign staff to grant and development activities.

RTTT-D requirements and award information

In order for LEAs to apply for RTTT-D, at least 40% of all participating students must be from low-income families, based on eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches.

Other RTTT-D requirements emphasize core Administration goals embedded in previous initiatives. For example, LEAs must have teacher evaluation systems in place that track teachers to individual students and track individual students from pre-K through 12th grade and beyond; and districts must measure student progress against college- and career-ready standards.

The RTTT-D program will award 15–25 grants totaling $555 million. Grant amounts are determined by the number of students served in the application, with $5 to $10 million available for applicants serving 2,000 to 5,000 students and up to $40 million for applicants serving more than 25,000 students.

Grant applications are due on October 30. Awards will be announced in December.

Read more:

Race to the Top website:

Race to the Top District homepage:



Read more from the August 2012 Rural Policy Matters.