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November 30. 2013 8:28PM

Nashua in running for education grant

NASHUA - The school district is in the running for a hefty federal grant that would foot the bill for goals and plans that school officials believe would boost student achievement.

Nashua is vying with 30 other school districts that are finalists for a share of $120 million in funding offered through a Race to the Top grant competition. Launched in 2009 with $4.3 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, Race to the Top encourages schools to adopt educational reforms and innovation.

Nashua submitted a $25 million four-year plan that includes ramping up technology, providing additional training and support for teachers and developing inquiry-based curriculum.

During the initial rounds of Race to the Top funding, New Hampshire was one of 45 states that adopted the Common Core Standards as part of their application for a grant.

"We didn't get anything the first time," said Nashua Board of Education member Elizabeth Van Twuyver, pleased that Nashua was picked as a finalist among more than 200 districts.

Still, with most federal funding for education, there are requirements and mandates, and some school officials are growing concerned about federal policymakers setting the rules for local schools.

"We are supposed to have local control, and we don't," said Van Twuyver.

Still, Nashua's application maps out a multi-year plan that stresses many of the goals educators and school officials often talk about. In a breakdown of the $25 million plan, the district has requested $7.5 million for improvements to school technology, including the purchase of 2,500 portable devices such as laptops and tablets, and upgrades to the wireless capabilities at both high schools.

More than $9 million would be used to help teachers and students make the transition to the new Common Core standards and the Smarter Balanced standardized tests scheduled to begin in the spring of 2015.

The district has also requested $2.8 million to bolster its ongoing effort to develop effective teachers and administrators. In addition to offering more professional development, the district hopes to create a "Principal's Academy" for aspiring school administrators and hire eight "master teachers" who would coach and co-teach classes with new teachers and veteran staff members who are struggling with some of the new programs and reforms.

Nashua's application also includes plans to increase enrollment in Advanced Placement classes and to provide more staff training and services for low-achieving schools.

The Department of Education is expected to release the final list of grant recipients this month.


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