Metro Nashville Public Schools missed the cut for a district-centered federal grant awarding school systems for innovations in education reform, national education officials announced Tuesday.
The school district ranked 40th among almost 400 competing systems across the state, landing it in the final round. But the U.S. Department of Education passed over MNPS and is handing awards to only the top 16 schools , according to the agency’s website.
MNPS was the only district in the Volunteer State  to land in the final round of 61 applicants in the grant competition, beating out Shelby County Schools and the state’s Achievement School District charged with turning around failing schools.
Metro Nashville’s school district had applied for the maximum award of $40 million within the total $400 million awarded through the program.
The loss comes shortly after top state officials urged Education Secretary Arne Duncan  to seriously consider the district when picking award winners.
“The fact is what happens in Nashville matters to Tennessee and the nation,” read a letter from Gov. Bill Haslam dated Dec. 3. “As the second largest school system in America’s leading reform state, and as the school system located in our capital city, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools is uniquely positioned to inform the entire field.”
Tennessee was one of the first states to win the Race to the Top competition in 2010 after the legislature approved a handful of education reforms, including making it easier to open charter schools, requiring revamped teacher evaluations and beefing up its use of student test data.
Other officials lending support included state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, House Speaker Beth Harwell, Mayor Karl Dean, U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, former Sen. Bill Frist and Jamie Woodson, CEO of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education.