Sunday, December 2, 2012

RACE to the TOP Grant

New Haven’s School District will receive a federal Race to the Top grant of more than $29 million over the next four-and-a-half years, to personalize student learning, improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare all students to succeed in college and careers.

According to Rick LaPlante, Director of Parent and Community Relations, New Haven plans to hire literacy, assessment and math coaches for all schools to provide in-classroom coaching in personalized learning for literacy, math and use of assessments. Summer teacher institutes will be expanded for reading, literacy and mathematics. Smaller class sizes for high school English Learners will be created. The district will purchase more K-8 library books and classroom libraries of non-fiction books and is thinking about expanding the positions of library media teachers. A full time librarian in every school is important to improving student achievement.

New Haven also plans to purchase mini-computer tablets for every 6-12 grade student and for every two K-5 students, as well as tablets, laptops and document cameras for all teachers. Additional IT technicians, a data specialist and technology trainers will be hired. All of the new technology will be phased in with strong teacher professional development to ensure usage.

The New Haven Unified School District was 2nd in the nation of 16 finalists for this grant. The focus of this grant is to take full advantage of 21st century tools to prepare students for college and careers. It is interesting to note that the American Association of School Librarians entitled their standards as 21st Century Learning Standards.

This grant lasts for 4 and 1/2 years. The real question is sustainability. Once the grant is gone can New Haven sustain the personnel, equipment, print resources, and drive to keep this effort moving forward. Now that New Haven has the Grant, the education sharks (businesses), such as the Wireless Generation, will move in and try to sell the district testing and resources they may not need. Whoever is watching the $$$ is going to have to fight to maintain the district's integrity. However, I am not going to say give the money back. New Haven and all schools are in dire need of financial support. Districts have to do what they need to do and worry about sustainability later. Certainly when the money is gone, New Haven may need to get other grants to keep afloat unless the state of California is more forthcoming with money.

There is no question fulfilling the goals of this grant is going to be similar to Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. The  superintendent down to the principals, teachers, and resource staff are going to have to hang on for their life. Hopefully it will be fun and rewarding for the staff and especially the students.

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