Best Websites for Classroom Instruction: The Improving Literacy through School Libraries Program of No Child Left Behind: Tips for Writing a Winning Grant Proposal

Article excerpt

FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS, THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION HAS AWARDED OVER 150 GRANTS BETWEEN $20,000 AND $350,000 TO HIGH-NEED SCHOOL LIBRARY PROGRAMS TO IMPROVE READING ACHIEVEMENT BY PROVIDING STUDENTS WITH INCREASED ACCESS TO SCHOOL LIBRARY MATERIALS, TO TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED SCHOOL LIBRARIES, AND TO CERTIFIED TEACHER-LIBRARIANS.

The Improving Literacy through School Libraries (LSL) program (www.ed.gov/programs/lsl/index.html) is part of the elementary and secondary education act, better known as No Child Left Behind (www.ed.gov/legislation/esea02/PG7.html). Since this funding is highly competitive, very targeted, and focused on schools that often do not have access to grant writing assistance, this ERIC Digest will help eligible high-need school library personnel to write an effective proposal for this unique grant program.

The LSL program restricts eligibility based on institutional and socioeconomic status. The applicant must be a local educational agency (LEA), as defined in section 9101 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). School districts are the most familiar form of LEAs. Some charter schools in some states are also considered LEAs. Individual schools and private schools are not eligible to apply for a grant or to receive services through an eligible LEA for this program. Eligible LEAs are those in which at least 20% of the students served are from families with incomes below the poverty line. This criterion is very strictly enforced. The LSL section of U.S. Department of Education includes a listing of eligible districts (www.ed.gov/programs/lsl/eligibility.html). Proposals are reviewed annually. LSL application materials (visit www.ed.gov/programs/lsl/resources/html for guidebook) are released in February or March; awards are made in August. While any education stakeholder can submit an Improving Literacy through School Libraries application as long as it is signed by the district superintendent, the process benefits from intense collaboration among teacher-librarians, grant writers, teachers, and administrators. Applications not borne of an integrated approach to the proposed work often reflect fragmented ideas and unclear implementation plans. Applications must include an abstract, program narrative, budget narrative, and resumes for key personnel. The focus of the peer review process is primarily on the program narrative, but since both the peer reviewers and LSL program personnel see the entire application package, it is essential that all documents be completed accurately and attentively.

LSL EVALUATION CRITERIA

Peer reviewers are guided by a single question, How does this proposal increase student literacy? Likewise, this question should guide the conception of a proposal and the articulation of its components.

In order to be competitive, the program narrative should address the evaluation criteria completely and explicitly. It is a good idea to present the proposal in order of the evaluation criteria, even if the pieces of the proposal are actually written in a different sequence. Point assignments for the elements should also guide development of each proposal criterion.

1. Meeting the purpose of the statute (10 points).

This criterion reflects how well the proposed project addresses the intended outcome of the statute to improve student literacy skills and academic achievement by providing students with increased access to library materials; a well-equipped, technologically advanced school library; and certified school librarians. In this section, the proposer should provide a "big picture" of project activities and how those activities specifically reflect the LSL statute. Proposers do not need to submit applications that work in all three areas (library materials, technology, teacher-librarians); focusing on one or two areas may be an effective way to construct a proposal that is realistic for the grants' 12-month funding period. …