SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City and Ogden school districts are among 61 finalists selected by the U.S. Department of Education for the Race to the Top-District competition, officials announced Monday.

The 61 finalists represent more than 200 school districts nationwide and were selected from a pool of 372 applications, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The Race to the Top-District competition will provide approximately $400 million to support locally developed plans to improve student performance, college- and career-readiness, and teacher effectiveness.

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"These finalists are setting the curve for the rest of the country with innovative plans to drive education reform in the classroom," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a prepared statement.

The department expects to award between 15 and 25 applications with four-year grants ranging from $5 million to $40 million. Winners will be announced in December.

"This competition was designed to support local efforts to close the achievement gap and transform the learning environment in a diverse set of districts," Duncan said. "But no matter who wins, children across the country will benefit from the clear vision and track records of success demonstrated by these finalists."