School district to receive $9 million Race to the Top grant
The Lee County School District was approved for more than $9 million over the next four years through tive federal investment for school reform.
School districts were in charge of providing a work plan that highlighted improvements in preparing students for college and the workplace; recruiting, developing, retaining and rewarding teachers and principals; building a data system that measures student success; and improving any lower achieving schools.
Dr. Greg Adkins, chief human resources officer for the school district, said Florida received $750 million through the Race to the Top program, which provides money to school districts, along with money for the state of Florida.
Terri Kinsey, coordinator of grants and program development for the school district, said the state of Florida was awarded more than $300 million for the competitive Race to the Top program through the U.S. Department of Education’s second round. She explained that school districts throughout the state were a part of the initial application process that Florida submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.
A group was organized of individuals from the curriculum department, staff development department and key personnel to design a work plan to be submitted.
Adkins said they received input from teachers, administrators, the school board and the district advisory committee. He explained that they put forth their biggest effort during the months of August and September.
There was a total of 13 work plans that had to be submitted for the Race to the Top grant, Adkins said, but since they are a high performance district they only had to submit 9 work plans.
Although the district was faced with a small amount of time to submit its application for the grant, it was successful in having it approved.
“It was a very fast process,” Kinsey said, adding that the departments all worked together to complete the work plan.
Adkins agreed in stating that the district had a short amount of time to accomplish the work plan.
“They gave us a tight time line,” he said. “We had to pull a lot together very quickly.”
Kinsey explained that when the state received notice of the grant, the district had three to four weeks to put together a work plan. After they submitted a draft and received feedback from the state, they submitted the application again the second week of November.
“We had to create a work plan that showed exactly how our school district was going to implement the activities that were going to support the goals in supporting student achievement,” she said.
Adkins said the Race to the Top grant is an opportunity for the school district to make some positive changes.
Since they received notification of being awarded the grant, the district began implementing the plans they outlined in the work plan.
A large factor of the Florida grant, Kinsey said, is the implementation of an online testing format for students, which requires a large infrastructure overhaul of technology for all of the schools.
“All of the schools are working to see what is already in place in regards to online testing,” she said about the practice run that will be held on Friday.
She said the practice run will provide them with the opportunity to see what the current capacity is for the state of Florida in regards to online testing.
The grant will also provide an improvement in the technology infrastructure, which Adkins explained will provide an opportunity to bring in a teacher dash board that would allow them to have student test date readily available to look at to monitor student improvement. He explained that principals would also have access to that data and information.
Some of the activities the district will be focusing on deals with the STEM program, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The program, which is primarily offered at the high school level, helps in preparing students for college level work.
“The STEM program is already beginning to expand and we are looking at ways to continue to expand them in our high schools,” she said.
Adkins expressed his excitement about the increase in the number of STEM courses they will be able to offer. He explained that Lee County has led the way in the STEM classes, so he is looking forward to the increase.
An increase in advanced placement and IB classes will also be implemented due to the grant.
Kinsey said the grant will also help the district implement an evaluation system for teachers and administrators. She explained that it is a requirement of the Florida program to link more student performances to teacher and administrator evaluations.
“We are looking forward to getting started,” Adkins said. “I think we will make some significant improvements that will help our kids.”