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RCPS wins Race to the Top Innovation grant
Memorial Middle to form STEM-focused environmental studies academy
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Rockdale County Public Schools was recently named as one of nine winners in the third round of competitive Innovation Fund grants through Georgia’s Race to the Top (RT3) plan.

The RCPS grant proposal for a "21st Century Academy of Environmental Studies" at Memorial Middle requested $676,849, which is within the grant limit of up to $350,000 per year for two years, but the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) has yet to confirm the exact funding awarded.

“We’re excited about the initial announcement that we have been awarded an Innovation Fund grant and look forward to receiving more communication from the Governor’s Office about the specifics of this award,” said Superintendent Richard Autry. “Our grant focuses on extending our STEM initiatives into the middle grades with an Academy of Environmental Studies, school-within-a-school model, at Memorial Middle School. It includes a partnership with Georgia Tech through CEISMC (Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing) and AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination). This grant directly aligns with our strategic plan and allows us to expand our innovative learning options for students and families.”

"The Innovation Fund empowers local communities to work together and think creatively about how to best address their educational needs,” Governor Nathan Deal said. “The nine grant awards we make today represent a wide range of projects with the potential to serve as tomorrow’s best practices.”

The nine selected grant recipients are:

• Building the Pipeline of Highly Effective Charter Teachers and Leaders – The Georgia Charter Schools Association and Lake Oconee Academy will develop and expand three recruitment, training and alternate certification programs to attract, support and retain highly effective teachers and leaders in the charter school sector.
• Community Partnership for a Quality Pipeline of Effective High School Leaders – The Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement will support Paulding County School System to build district capacity and create a pipeline of effective high school leaders.
• Computational Thinking: 21st Century STEM Problem-Solving Skills for Georgia Students – The Georgia Institute of Technology will work with B.E. Mays High School and Tapjoy, Inc. to incorporate computational thinking into high school STEM curricula, teaching students to construct models to simulate, visualize and solve real-world problems.
• Charter System Leadership Development and Governance Certification Program – As a newly approved charter system, Fulton County Schools and its partners will launch the Leadership and Innovation Academy, a program to equip principals and School Governance Councils with the skills they need to successfully operate and govern a charter school.
• Drew Charter School Partnership for Expansion – Drew Charter School, the Georgia Tech Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (GT CEISMC), the Georgia State University School of Music and others will expand Drew’s highly successful pre-K-8 STEAM curriculum to grades 9-12, creating a true cradle-to-college pipeline serving inner-city students.
• Greene County STEAM TLA Collaborative – Greene County Schools, the Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Georgia faculty and Ed Innovation Partners seek to open a charter school in Greene County with the mission of increasing the number of students who choose STEM fields as a career.
• Museum in a Box – The Museum School of Avondale Estates will work with Zoo Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, the Atlanta History Center and others to expand the school’s highly successful museum-based learning strategy to metro-area schools.
• Real STEM – A partnership between Georgia Southern University, seven area research institutes and six school districts to develop hands-on STEM learning modules related to the environmental concerns of Georgia’s coastal region. 
Rockdale 21st Century Academy of Environmental Studies – Rockdale County Schools, in partnership with GT CEISMC and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), will create a STEM-focused middle grades school that provides students with portfolio and project-based learning modules.

GOSA received more than 75 requests to apply for round three and invited 50 applicants to submit proposals.

The state received $19.4 million in federal funding for a competative grant program through Georgia’s Race to the Top (RT3) plan. Through the Innovation Fund, the state awards grants to partnerships between local education authorities or charter schools, institutions of higher education, businesses and nonprofit organizations that develop or implement innovative and high-impact programs aimed at producing positive outcomes for students.

More information about the Innovation Fund may be found on the GOSA website (