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Tennessee’s Race to the Top Strategy

Stratford High SchoolStratford High School town hall meeting on education

Tennessee was one of two states — Delaware was the other — that won education grants in the first round of the Department of Education’s Race to the Top competition earlier this year. So, how is it using the $501 million? Well, $37 million is earmarked for creating new, innovative ways of teaching STEM subjects, the Tennessean reports. Gov. Phil Bredesen tells the newspaper that science and math will get special attention because he wants his state to develop a workforce that meets the needs of the future job market. Of that $37 million, $15.7 million is going to the Ohio nonprofit Battelle Memorial Institute, which will develop and operate at least five laboratory schools to act as test beds for new ways of teaching STEM subjects before other districts adopt them. Battelle, which helped Tennessee put together its winning competition entry, also co-manages the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The laboratory schools won’t be high-flyers filled with overachieving kids. Instead, the state is picking troubled locations, like Stratford High School in Nashville, according to the Tennessean. About a third of Stratford’s students drop out before graduating, and the school offers only a few Advanced Placement classes. Some $2 million will be spent at Stratford on teacher training and new labs and equipment, as well as on more science field trips. The notion is, if the classroom innovations work at schools like Stratford, they should certainly work in other state schools, as well.

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