Fort Wayne Community Schools takes steps toward improving student achievement through use of nearly $50 million federal grant

Fort Wayne Community Schools' board of school trustees voted Monday night to accept  what could amount to a  nearly $50 million federal grant to improve student performance and teacher and staff effectiveness. (Courtesy illustration)

Fort Wayne Community Schools' board of school trustees voted Monday night to accept what could amount to a nearly $50 million federal grant to improve student performance and teacher and staff effectiveness. (Courtesy illustration)

Fort Wayne Community Schools took an early step toward improving student achievement, especially at low-performing schools, by approving acceptance of a federal grant that could send up to $50 million to the district to help address the problem.

The FWCS board of school trustees approved accepting the U.S. Department of Education Teacher and School Leadership Incentive Program (TSLIP) grant during their regular board meeting Monday night at Grile Administrative Center. They also approved two contracts with outside experts for work related to the grant.

The board had learned details about the grant and FWCS’ plans for using it during a work session meeting on Jan. 25.

FWCS officials learned late last fall federal education officials had awarded the district the TSLIP grant, which is the largest monetary grant the district has ever received, FWCS Superintendent Wendy Robinson said after the meeting. The district definitely will receive three years of grant funding, and it can ask to renew it for two additional years.

Annual grant totals are:

• $9.9 million this year, $9.6 million in 2019 and $10.1 million in 2020.

• If renewed, the grant will provide FWCS with $10.1 million in 2021 and $10 million in 2022.

If FWCS receives all five years, the combined total will be $49,496,193, FWCS officials told the board.

THE PLAN

FWCS plans to use the grant funding implement an initiative it calls the PEER: Performance + Equity = Excellent Results! program.

Key aspects of PEER reported at the Jan. 25 meeting include:

• Provide training to increase all teachers’ effectiveness in the classroom.

• Offer financial incentives to encourage highly effective teachers to teach at low-performing schools.

• Recruit more minority teachers so more students can learn from people who look like them.

• Hire outside experts The Charles A. Dana Center and CenterPoint Education Solutions to help FWCS leaders and language arts and math teachers develop classroom lessons that meet state curriculum standards and learn how to better assess whether students are learning what is taught.

• Hire Discovery Education to help implement a STEM-focused (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) approach at Irwin Elementary, Portage Middle School and Wayne High School and a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) emphasis at current fine arts magnet schools – Whitney Young Early Childhood Center, Weisser Park Elementary, Memorial Park Middle School and South Side High School.

• Implement new information systems to track student data, provide learning resources and assess students’ learning.

• Develop a better personnel management system and provide training to all staff to improve their abilities.

The school board began some of the grant implementation by approving two contracts with outside experts:

• CenterPoint Education Solutions will be paid $1,053,127 for four phases of work to be performed over a three-year period.

• EduShift, which wrote the TSLIP grant application for the district, will serve as external evaluator for FWCS’ implementation of the grant. The contract would cover three years at $398,750 per year and be renewable two additional years for five-year combined total of $1,993,750.

In addition, the school board also approved applying for and accepting a $75,000 Digital Learning Grant from the Indiana Department of Education. The grant will be used to buy laptop computers to make sure students at Portage and Memorial Park middle schools and South Side and Wayne high schools have enough computers to use math and science “techbooks” that will be part of the schools’ new STEM or STEAM focus.

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