D-11 wins millions in grants, some for teacher bonuses

September 23, 2010

Colorado Springs School District 11 secured more than $20 million in federal grants on Thursday that will go toward funding programs in 10 schools.

About $15.2 million won in the Teacher Incentive Fund grant competition will be spread out over five years. A second grant gives Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy about $5.2 million over three years.

The teacher incentive grant will be used to implement TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement at six elementary schools — Hunt, Lincoln, Monroe, Queen Palmer, Mark Twain and Wilson; two middle schools — Galileo School of Math and Science and Swigert; and two high schools — Mitchell and Wasson.

Deputy Superintendent Mary Thurman said students and teachers will see a difference.

The program includes coaching for teachers, sets up a system to test and share teaching methods, and also rewards for excellence. The district will provide additional support to boost teacher effectiveness, recruitment and retention.

“It’s not just about teacher bonuses,” said D-11 grant director Jessica Sharp. “It’s about building better teachers.”

Tim Cross, Colorado Springs Education Association executive director, said he’s optimistic that if the program rolls out as planned it will yield a fantastic partnership to start new things.

“The hope is that it is a sustainable project,” he said. Longevity will depend on developing partnerships to allow the program to continue after the grant funds are exhausted.

The five-year $1.2 billion federal teacher incentive program is focused on boosting education by rewarding excellence, attracting teachers and principals to high-need and hard to staff areas and providing staff with feedback and support. Sixty independent, expert peer reviewers judged applicants.

This year’s 62 winning applicants included rural and urban school districts, nonprofit groups and state education organizations from 27 states.

The federal grant for Swigert is from the Magnet Schools Assistance program. It’s the same grant that Galileo won several years ago.

“It will really help take Swigert to the next level,” Sharp said.

Mary Ley, a D-11 program director, worked on the grant application for Swigert and Galileo.
The grant will pay for state-of-the-art technology and science equipment, building improvements, professional development for teachers, special guests speakers and new hires to help students who are struggling.

Ley said that as the improvements lead to successes at the school, more opportunities will be created beyond the life of the grant.

While the district was not banking on the funds, officials said months ago they believed they had strong applications.

The district will receive the first installment for both grants in January.

“It’s a relief to know we have the funding to continue really innovative programs,” Sharp said.

Contact the writer at 636-0162.

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