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Region 'revs up' powerful partnerships to increase student achievement in Race to the Top application

In an unprecedented showing of region-wide collaboration, seven school districts completed a joint grant application for up to $40 million in federal Race to the Top funds and submitted it this week to the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C.

The superintendents, education associations and school boards collaborated on and approved the grant proposal. The Puget Sound Educational Service District will serve as the lead agency responsible for overall project management and function as the fiscal agent should the grant be awarded. Grant winners will be announced in December.

"Schools are at the heart of our community and it's my priority to help all our students achieve success," said Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis. "Families in South King County often move from district to district and this approach is charting a new path for student achievement by bringing people together to create a plan that reaches across district and city borders."

The districts submitted the application under the name "The Road Map District Consortium," in reference to their participation in the Road Map Project, a community-wide effort to drive educational improvement in South Seattle and South King County. The consortium serves King County's most disadvantaged students, including 70 percent of the county's low-income children, 69 percent of the county's English Language Learner (ELL) students and 58 percent of the county's students of color.

"The broad support behind the Road Map District Consortium's grant application shows that many cities and school districts can work together toward building stronger schools and communities," Lewis said. "Auburn was among 18 cities that stood behind this collaborative approach."

The grant application supports an exchange of best practices to help students get a successful start in school, emphasizes STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and prepares high school students for college and their career. To read more about the application, go to this website.

What the grant would fund:

• The region's students would be offered the PSAT/SAT during school and at no cost.

• Every student at a high-poverty elementary school would get a summer reading plan.

• The region would develop a shared data portal, which means student data would transfer easily from district to district as families move.

• Students and families would have increased access to computer programs designed to reinforce STEM education.

• More support would be given to school guidance counselors to help students and their families, especially in high-need schools.

• Access to AP classes would be expanded.

• The grant also calls for partnerships with the King County Housing Authority, schools and other agencies to develop "24/7 learning communities" that will extend learning time for children.

"Homeless children can't succeed in school, nor can children who move every four months. The King County Housing Authority provides housing for more than 13,000 low-income children across the county and housing stability and academic achievement are our priority. We are excited to be part of the Road Map District Consortium effort because we recognize that housing has to work hand-in-hand with the school districts and with health agencies in order to ensure student success," said Stephen Norman, executive director of the King County Housing Authority.

"We are prepared and excited to serve as the lead local education agency providing technical assistance to the consortium districts," said Puget Sound ESD Superintendent John Welch. "An investment in the Road Map District Consortium is money well spent. We are leveraging resources throughout the region to make a difference in students' lives. Being awarded a Race to the Top grant will accelerate our work and our results."

Facts about the region's application:

• The grant is asking for $40 million in federal Race to the Top funds.

• 7 school districts were involved in the process, along with their education associations and school boards.

• The application covers 261 schools.

• Nearly 150,000 students could benefit from the grant funding.

• 21 municipalities were asked to comment on the proposal.

• 3 housing authorities and 2 library systems serve the area.

• The application has received more than 80 letters of support.

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