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Regional Race to the Top?

New Jersey awards $1M to districts for improving special ed results.

Governor Chris Christie lavished praise, and cash, on 12 districts that have boosted test scores of their students with disabilities. The announcement also served as a preview of the state's growing ability to track and reward results throughout the system.

Acting DOE commissioner Chris Cerf, who joined Christie at the announcement, said: "We developed these awards to shine a spotlight on the needs of our students with disabilities, and to make sure that we as educators work tirelessly to improve their performance."

The state's K-12 districts were divided into five groupings, from wealthiest to most impoverished; two winners were selected from each group, and two high school districts as well.

Districts received up to $100,000. The money came from federal funds allocated through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The DOE looked at proficiency rates in math and language arts and growth on the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge and the Alternative Proficiency Assessment (APA) in grades 4-8. High school districts were judged by their APA and the High School Proficiency Assessment results.

In this first year, the state DOE simply chose the winners; next year schools and districts will have to apply. 

Cerf said he hopes the competition spurs both innovation and best practices that other districts and schools can follow.

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