The Springdale School District and the Southwest Arkansas Education Cooperative are among 61 finalists nationwide in the competition for nearly $400 million in federal Race to the Top funds.

The program will fund ideas that improve student achievement and teacher effectiveness. Between 15 and 25 recipients each will receive between $5 million and $40 million. The U.S. Department of Education received 372 applications in November.

The Springdale School District applied for about $30 million to support programs for students of all ages. The grant would expand the district’s preschool program as well as reading and math activities in early grades. Afterschool and summer programs would be expanded. The district also would expand its career academies, which let high school students study classes in subjects such as architecture and medicine.

The Southwest Arkansas Education Cooperative has partnered with six education service agencies in Washington, West Virginia and New Mexico to ask for $39 million to fund the Career Driven Education in Rural America (CADERA) program. The program targets students in grades 5-12 and attempts to bridge the gap between career and technical classes and the new Common Core State Standards being adopted by Arkansas and most other states.

Participating entities would share an online portal allowing teachers to collaborate on projects that would personalize teaching. The portal also would allow students to meet online to work on projects. Also as part of the program, participating entities would share 10 career coaches who would help students develop personalized career and academic plans.

Awards will be announced by Dec. 31.

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