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Rewards, Anyone?

February 5, 2013

At last Thursday’s State Board of Education meeting, six schools received Reward Schools Grants to partner with Priority Schools. The memo provided by Superintendent Barresi to Board members explained the following about the grants:

  • 229 Reward Schools were eligible to apply.
  • 14 applications were received.
  • 6 grants totaling $400,000 were awarded.
  • 60 percent of the funds are to be spent celebrating the success of the Reward School.
  • 40 percent of the funds are to be spent on partnership activities benefiting both the Reward School and the Partnership School.

My first observation was that less than five percent of eligible schools even applied for the grant. When I read Barresi’s press release, I had even more thoughts:

Reward Schools are designated as high achieving in all state assessments or showing high progress in reading and math. As part of the grant application, Reward Schools had to propose a partnership with a Priority School, those that are in the bottom 5% of achievement in the state in reading and mathematics, have a graduation rate below 60% for at least three years, or have received a School Improvement Grant (SIG).

Grants were awarded to:

  • Earl Harris Elementary School in Bethany ($71,000), which will partner with Council Grove Elementary School in the Western Heights School District
  • Adair High School ($47,000), which will partner with Okay High School
  • Ripley Elementary School ($47,000), which will partner with Yarbrough Elementary School
  • Kingfisher High School ($71,000), which will partner with Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City
  • Ryal Public School ($47,000), which will partner with Hanna Elementary School
  • Edmond Memorial High School ($117,000), which will partner with Justice A.W. SeeWorth Academy Charter School in Oklahoma City

The amount of the awards was based on the total number of certified employees in both the Reward School and the Priority School.

Assistant State Superintendent of Educational Support Kerri White said collaboration between peers is a highly effective methodology for school improvement. She said the vision for the grant is to see schools celebrate successes while collaborating to seek continuous improvement in student learning, school culture, and professional growth. The ultimate goal is to see schools removed from the Priority School list while seeing an increase in the number of Reward Schools.

None of the partnerships are in the Tulsa area. That could mean that the usual group of complainers just decided they didn’t want to participate, or that they were excluded. There’s really no way to know that. Also, I don’t see a lot of commonality between matched pairs. Kingfisher and Capitol Hill? Edmond Memorial and SeeWorth? It makes you wonder how much stakeholder buy-in was developed before they submitted their applications. And how pervasive support will be now.

Gimmicks such as these are not the game-changers we’ve all been promised. Apparently, 95 percent of the Reward Schools agree with me.

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