June 25, 2012
For further information, contact: Lance Gibbon 279-5000
Grant to raise the bar for students at secondary level
Three-year project to focus on greater student engagement and higher expectations
An education grant from the Department of Defense will finance an intensive three-year training to improve math and reading instruction at the secondary level in Oak Harbor schools.
Oak Harbor School District learned last week it was awarded a $1.9 million grant to increase college and career readiness in literacy and math. The grant will fund a plan to help improve instruction in grades 6-12 using "proven research-based techniques" that lead to "greater student engagement and higher expectations" in the classroom.
This is the second year in a row Oak Harbor has received funding from the Department of Defense Education Activity for professional development. Last year's $2.16 million grant focused on improving reading for our youngest readers, preschool through 5th grade. Both grants are spread out over three years.
Work on the new project, titled "College and Career Ready through High Expectations and Engagement," is already underway. The grant will pay for math, English, science, and social studies teachers to return during the summer for intensive training, followed by ongoing in-classroom coaching during the school year. The program uses a nationally-known independent group of reading and math specialists who will work with Oak Harbor teachers over the next three years.
"This is about raising the bar in Oak Harbor," said Assistant Superintendent Lance Gibbon, who wrote the grant. "The hallmark of high-achieving schools is they have high expectations for all kids."
Gibbon said that one indicator of the grant's success will be in future years seeing more kids taking higher-level courses at Oak Harbor High School - and succeeding. It's not necessarily about more kids going to college, he said. "It's about them being ready for their next step, whatever that might be - college, trade school, or the military," he said.
"Part of this is about how we change the culture so that students get the message that they can do more and that they are expected to do more," Gibbon said. "We want students to fully believe they are capable of succeeding at whatever they set their minds to do."
The first year will focus mostly on reading. Year two will be more about math and the third year will expand into science. "Science is the practical application of math and reading," Gibbon said.
Through the grant, Oak Harbor will contract with the Consortium on Reading Excellence (CORE), a private firm made up of teachers who specialize in reading strategies. CORE is the group doing much of the training at the elementary level.
The Southeast Regional Education Board (SREB) will be conducting the professional development in the areas of math, science, and social studies. The SREB is the same group behind the "High Schools That Work" initiative and its companion program, "Making Middle Grades Work." Oak Harbor has been working on implementing these programs for the last few years, but without any funding for training.
Those programs each focus on 10 specific points for better teaching. "This grant takes the two main points - high expectations and student engagement - and places them front and center," Gibbon said. "It means we finally have the funds to take what we've been talking about, provide the specific training needed, and follow up in the classroom with coaching."
Laura Fortin, a math teacher at OHHS since 1999, will serve as the full-time project director for the duration of the grant. High school teachers Molly Butler, Andy Wesley, and Jonathon Frostad will oversee the English, math, and science portions of the grant. Each will take a one-year leave from teaching.