U-46 Reaps Rewards of Successful Grant Applications

Article excerpt

Byline: Marvin Edwards

Several years ago, School District U-46 initiated a new "hands- on" approach to science instruction in grades kindergarten through six. A vast departure from the previous textbook-based approach, the program utilized user-friendly kits, printed materials and lab reports. It also required a major professional development effort to prepare and help teachers adapt to the new concept.

That training was made possible by more than half a million dollars through a Scientific Literacy Staff Development grant from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). After three years of developing the new science program, district staff turned to the same grant to support training for mathematics instruction.

The ISBE responded with $200,000 for the math effort last year, and added another $261,861 this year. With more than $200,000 expected next year, the U-46 professional growth effort in mathematics will benefit by some $700,000 in outside grants.

With so much news these days about the sagging economy, I felt it was time again to remind readers about the often unheralded effort U-46 makes to obtain additional resources over and above general state aid and local tax dollars.

While politicians argue over whether the economic downturn began before or after the Sept. 11 attack on America, the fact remains that families, businesses and state agencies are tightening their belts. Not only must schools make even better use of the funding they receive through regular sources, efforts to aggressively pursue grants and other outside dollars will be more important than ever.

These "extra" resources come from a variety of government and private grants that help schools supplement local and state funds to support teaching and learning. Even though such dollars are available to all school districts, U-46 has been particularly successful in the competitive process to acquire grants.

Obviously, the Scientific Literacy Professional Development grant we mentioned earlier is only one example. This year alone, U- 46 has been successful in obtaining more than $5 million in outside, competitive funds.

Like the scientific grant, some of the additional resources are used to enhance districtwide efforts. Over the years grants have paid for computers, software and other materials for integrating technology.

Last year alone, the district benefited from more than $2 million for technology.

A Safe to Learn Grant helped U-46 install security cameras and buzzers in all schools; parenting classes at U-46 elementary schools; "Character Counts!" training for interested U-46 and private school staff; and a new video on how the schools and community can work together to keep children safe.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Education is being continued for a third year in a program that serves as an alternative to out- of-school suspensions. Students in fourth- through twelfth-grades and their parents have an opportunity to attend a series of Saturday morning classes in lieu of being suspended. …