Monday, October 3, 2011

Proving You Have a Problem

Applying for grant money is a competitive task. You don’t put on pads and knock heads like your students do in their football games, but winning grant money is no less competitive. To make sure grant readers know that you have a problem and that you understand that problem, you need good solid information to back up your claims.

The information you need to detail your problem can come from a number of sources including: standardized testing, state testing, free/reduced lunch counts, dropout rates, disciplinary records, attendance reports, ACT/SAT scores, grade records, teen pregnancy rates, surveys, and a host of other sources that should be readily available to you. Grant writers use statistical information from standardized tests and free/reduced lunch counts more than any others when applying for grants.

Nationally- and state-normed standardized tests are so useful because the information is usually disaggregated into grade level, classroom, male/female, advantaged/disadvantaged, minority/non-minority, and several other categories. This allows you to see exactly who is doing well and who is falling behind. This information also tells you how far some of those groups are falling behind. In other words, disaggregated data from standardized tests supply you with a treasure trove of information that is perfect to use when you are trying to detail the problems your school is having on a grant application.

Just as widely used on grant applications are the numbers for the economically disadvantaged in a school, usually derived from free/reduced lunch counts. Parents have to submit financial information to schools in order for students to qualify for free or reduced meals. It is no surprise to most educators when these same economically disadvantaged students (not as individuals, but as a group) are the very ones who show up with the lowest standardized test scores. Many people want to argue the difference in scores results from minority/non-minority or rural/urban/suburban status, but most of the time, the big difference in these scores comes down to the level of income in the home.

Many grants are won or lost because of the poverty level of your students. Don’t overlook the fact, however, that even if you just have 10% of your students that are economically disadvantaged, if that 10% is struggling, you may be able to apply for grant money to help them.

Even though low test scores and low-income are the main statistics you want to use on a grant application, you can also supply some rather unusual and convincing data from other sources. We wanted to put a piano lab in a middle school where I was principal. We surveyed local churches in our small town as to the difficulty they had in securing pianists for their services. We found they had a very difficult time. That was good information for us to use on our grant application for a piano lab.

It’s very important to give good information about the problems you have when you’re filling out a grant application. Most of the time that information will come in the form of statistics. Be sure you supply the best most detailed data that you can. Grant writing is competitive. Giving grant readers a clear picture of the problem you’re having will often help you beat that competition.

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