District hopes for $40m from feds

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. is hopeful the Philadelphia School District will win a federal grant.

Philadelphia School District officials have their eye on millions in federal funds they hope to earn through grants to be awarded in December.

The Race to the Top program, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, has previously awarded funds to 21 states and the District of Columbia, for programs aimed at boosting student achievement.  Now, the feds are offering money to individual school districts that plan to "personalize learning, close achievement gaps and use 21st century tools to prepare students for college and careers."

Philadelphia, in its application, said it would use the money to make learning more personal - through "personalized engagement and the use of mobile devices, such as iPads and response clickers."

Philly could get up to $40 million, which would reach between 25 and 30 elementary and middle schools and five to 10 high schools.

The district proposed different strategies for different grades.  In the early grades, the money would go to help intensive literacy programs.  Seventh and eighth graders would examine careers through project-based learning and would also get online math enrichment.  For high school sophomores through seniors, the money would help pay for student portfolios, career and technical focus, and opportunities to earn credit outside of school.

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and Home and School Council have signed on to support the district's application. The winning districts - 15 to 25 are expected nationwide - will be notified in December.

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said in a news release that he was "excited about our prospects for the award.  This opportunity will enable us to implement cutting-edge programs and solid educational practices that can be replicated across the district."