The St. Vrain Valley school district has won a $16.6 million federal Race to the Top grant, making it the only Colorado district to land one of 16 awards made by the U.S. Department of Education Tuesday.

ARRA logoThe awards actually cover 55 school districts across the country because some applications were filed by groups of districts. A total of nearly $400 million was awarded. The money will be spread over four years.

The district grants are focused on programs that will “personalize” student learning. As the DOE news release put it, the effort is intended “to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare every student to succeed in college and their careers.”

We’re definitely happy campers up here.” Regina Renaldi, executive director of priority schools for the St. Vrain district, said of winning the grant.

She said the funds will be used primarily to expand science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs at Skyline High School in Longmont and its feeder elementary and middle schools. “We want to raise the bar for math and literacy,” Renaldi said. The high school and its feeders currently enroll 7,578 students.

A STEM “innovation center” will be created at Skyline, intended primarily for college-bound students. A separate “P-Tech” program will be created in partnership with IBM, which has a major facility in the area. That program will be focused on students headed for technical professions that don’t necessarily require a college degree.

The grant also will place specially trained counselors in all the Skyline feeder schools and to provide after-school and summer programs for STEM students. (Skyline will continue to have a general high school curriculum and a visual and performing arts program.)

Two years ago St. Vrain won a $3.6 million federal i3 (Investing in Innovation) grant for focused interventions for Hispanic students and English language learners at Skyline and its feeder schools.

St. Vrain’s R2T application received 200.33 out of a total 210 points in the department’s scoring system. Applications were scored by outside reviewers.

The highest score among the 16 winners was 208.33; the lowest was 196.33. Mapleton, the only other Colorado district to be considered for an award, scored 195.33.

There were 374 applicants, including 10 from Colorado districts or groups of districts.

The competition was the first R2T round intended specifically for districts rather than states. As a state, Colorado has won two “consolation” rounds in R2T, one to fund implementation of reform efforts such as the educator effectiveness law and one to fund early childhood initiatives. (That latter announcement came just last week; see story here.)