ARRA option for schoolsEducation reform is shaping up to be a hot political topic in 2010. About $4 billion dollars of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding has been set aside for education reform, and states are competing head-to-head to receive portions of that money.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Education reform is shaping up to be a hot political topic in 2010.
About $4 billion dollars of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding has been set aside for education reform, and states are competing head-to-head to receive portions of that money.
Wisconsin is among states asking its school districts to sign up for the Race to the Top grant program. Districts that take part must implement prescribed practices in their schools. Among requirements are benchmark assessments in reading and math, data systems to track student growth, mentoring and career development opportunities for teachers, and intervention programs for struggling students.
In the Superior school district, many of the Race to the Top practices are already in place.
“Obama is saying these are the things we need to do to improve our schools, and we’ve already been there, done that,” said Superior School Board member Christina Kintop.
Because Superior has already implemented many of the required practices, Superior superintendent Janna Stevens said she sees no reason not participate in the Race to the Top program. Districts must sign a memorandum of understanding by Jan. 13 to be included, but they may still opt out at a later date if they chose.
Wisconsin hopes to receive $250 million in total funds from the $4 billion pot, but the grant money awarded could be as much as $100 million less, if the state receives any funding at all.
Under current estimates, the Superior school district would receive about $830,000 in grant money, Maple would get $180,000, Northwood would get about $83,000 and Solon Springs would receive the $60,000 minimum. The grant is good for up to 48 months, depending upon level of participation.
At Monday’s committee of the whole meeting, the Superior School Board moved forward a proposal to add a writing acceleration class at Superior High School. The half-credit elective course would be open to students in grades 10-12 who require additional instruction to improve their writing skills. Students would learn the basics of scholarly writing, not creative writing.
“This is just one piece of the puzzle,” Stevens said. “These kids are hemorrhaging, so to speak. We need to identify them earlier — in ninth and 10th grade — and get them the help they need.”
Mary Anne Korsch, director of curriculum and instruction, said the writing acceleration class will serve as a support tool for students writing at a “non-functional” level. The acceleration class will not take the place of regularly required English courses; students will be enrolled simultaneously.
“Essentially, we’d be double dipping them,” Korsch said.
In the first year, one class will be offered each semester with a maximum of 15 students per class. Results of the course will then be reviewed to determine whether to extend it the following year.
No additional staff is needed to offer the writing acceleration class, and texts to be used have already been purchased. Class sizes in some higher level English courses will increase when teachers are reassigned to the acceleration course, but Korsch said no current English courses will be dropped to add the new class.
€ The Just Kids Dental Health program recently received a Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin grant for $11,000. The money will be used to extend coverage within the Superior district, specifically by offering dental sealant services to a wider array of students.
“This allows us to see more children, to catch more that fall between the cracks,” said Nancy Smith, director of health services.
The Just Kids Dental Health program, founded by Stacey Anderson, provides oral health education, cleaning, sealants and other dental work to children who may not otherwise have access to dental care.
Parent consent forms are currently being sent out concerning the increased coverage of the program. Parents are asked to read the forms carefully before signing and returning them to their school nurses. Consent forms were also sent out for the upcoming H1N1 booster shots for children nine years old and younger.