Highland View Elementary School has received a grant of $490,572 from the U.S. Department of Education to extend opportunities for students and their families through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program. The grant will provide $163,524 per year for each of the next three years.
The learning centers program was established by Congress to enable impacted public schools to implement or expand projects that benefit the educational, health, social services, and recreational needs of the community. The purpose of the learning centers is closely aligned with goals of Our Call to Action which seek to establish family-friendly partnerships, close the achievement gap along racial and ethnic lines, and provide on-site staff development.
"Building Bridges" will be the theme of the Highland View 21st Century Community Learning Center. The school's grant will be used to address the needs of its diverse student body, which includes 54 percent who are in the Free and Reduced Meals Service (FARMS) and 25 percent who receive English as a second language services.
The proposal itself was the fruit of a yearlong collaboration between media specialist Barbara Covington and reading initiative teacher Elisabeth Curtz.
"I've been dissatisfied for years with my efforts to accelerate African-American students. I knew something was missing," says Curtz. "Dr. Covington had just finished her dissertation on mentoring first grade African-American children and addressing social and emotional needs, and I turned to her for help."
Specific programs will improve student performance in reading and math, increase parent involvement, reduce mobility rate of students' families, and foster a comfortable and welcoming school climate for its diverse community. The ultimate goals are to promote students' confidence and academic success and to foster family stability.
To meet these goals, the project will provide a number of additional supports beyond the school day, many of which are expansions of existing opportunities. The grant will continue support for the before-school bilingual Spanish program for grades 3-5 that has been implemented in stages over the past two years with small grants and extracurricular funds. It will expand and refine a summer program for first and second grade students needing literacy support and extend before- and after-school tutorials in basic and higher level math and literacy.
In addition, an already strong Hispanic Parent Network will receive expanded services from a contractual family therapist from the Amigo Child Center and a similar effort will be made to strengthen ties with African American families.
Among other projects that will be funded by the grant is a comprehensive staff development initiative, supported by the local school staff development teacher, that will address staff attitudes, concerns and expectations regarding the performance of children who are not fluent in English.
MCPS Grants Specialist Patricia Marks provided guidance and support that helped make this a successful proposal.
"The grant provides us with an opportunity to reach out to parents and work together as a staff to close the gap," says Curtz. "It will help us build on our strengths so that we can grow and learn together."