Monday, December 10, 2012

Grants for Closing Achievement Gaps

In one way or another most grant money is used in an attempt to close achievement gaps between different groups of students. A lot of grants specifically list money as being available primarily to economically disadvantaged students. That, in itself, lets you know that money is designated to help you close achievement gaps. 

Since our great country was partially founded on the principle of giving an equal opportunity to all, it is not unusual that a great deal of grant money given by the federal government, state governments, foundations, and corporations is given to close achievement gaps between economically disadvantaged students and those who are not disadvantaged. While it is not usually stated so overtly, in essence, closing the achievement gap in most schools is an attempt to give all students an equal shot at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As a matter of fact, as a group, those who drop out of school or end their school careers far behind their peers are likely to die younger, commit more crimes, spend more time incarcerated, earn far less, and have more broken homes.

In other words, while a good education does not guarantee you fulfillment of the American dream, the lack of a good education certainly makes it that much harder to achieve. That’s why almost all teachers and principals work their hardest to give every child a good education. That’s also why so many grantors give money to those who are specifically attempting to close the achievement gaps in their districts, their buildings, and in their classrooms.

If most of the students in your district do not achieve anywhere close to the national or state norms, grant money should be readily available. Let me hasten to add, however, that if you have gotten lots of grant money in the past and did little to close the achievement gap between your students and those in other districts, grant money may get harder and harder to come by without some drastic changes in the structure and practices of your district. I believe the warning to grantors is, “Don’t throw good money after bad.” Grantors are reluctant to keep spending money when the grant recipients have had little or no success in the past.

If you are looking to close the achievement gap between a campus and other campuses in your district, you should still find plenty of grants available. Again, the key is to show success with your initial grant and that will make it easier if you need to apply for other grant money. This type of achievement gap can be a sore spot for you, especially if your students come from similar neighborhoods and/or from families with similar economic circumstances. If that happens to be the case, it is imperative that you visit other campuses where students are consistently achieving as they should, then do most of the same things they do. If something works, use it. Don’t think that your situation is so unique that you have to invent some new solution to the problem.

Finally, it is a rare classroom that does not have some achievement gaps. These achievement gaps have almost nothing to do with gender or race and everything to do with some students being economically disadvantaged. It’s a safe bet that the class you got from the grade below already had severe achievement gaps from day one. To close these gaps, your disadvantaged students will have to grow at a more rapid rate than those who are not disadvantaged. That may mean they need to spend more time on such things as reading and math, and they need more help in the form of tutoring before or after school. To close the gap, you must provide something that changes their rate of learning so that they can grow at a faster rate than other students. To provide these things, you may need grant money.

I believe the United States is still the finest country on the planet. It can only stay that way if we continue to follow the democratic principles on which it was founded. We must provide an education to all children that allows them to pursue the American dream --- whatever that may be in their eyes. In education, the first step to doing that is to close the achievement gaps between those who are economically disadvantaged and those who are not.

Fortunately, millions of dollars of grant money are spent every year on this very problem. Make sure your school is getting its share of that money and also doing its part to close those achievement gaps.

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