Thursday, June 22, 2017 This Week's Paper

Tacoma schools GEAR UP for increased achievement

The Tacoma School District submitted a grant application this month, in partnership with the University of Washington-Tacoma, which could reap nearly $10 million for at-risk youth.

The Tacoma School Board approved the application April 14, for a seven-year federal GEAR UP grant. The proposal, which totals $17.5 million, will be submitted by UWT later this month.

If approved, the grant could reap an additional $10.5 million for Tacoma Public Schools over the next seven years. The money will allow the district to provide support services to a cohort of students at risk of dropping out, including professional development in math, reading and writing for classroom teachers.

“We’ve been working in partnership with the university to stay focused on providing quality first instruction education to our sixth through 12 graders. (The grant) really is a huge help if we get it,” Assistant Superintendent Rosanne Fulton said. “The best thing we can do is give students strong first instruction.”

This grant will focus on early identification of struggling students, developing strategies for intervention and creating support by increasing services for the student cohort.

The district’s Student Service department will follow the student cohort throughout sixth and seventh grades. The department will coordinate outside service providers and analyze student achievement data. UWT will provide college preparation and awareness experiences and opportunities through afterschool and summer programs and assist with the transition of students into post-graduate studies.

The district will attempt to address both the social and academic needs of the students through an intensive after-school tutoring program and increased emphasis on support services.

“We are sticking with those two grade levels, so we can identify ways to offer more academic and emotional support,” Fulton said.

Here are a few proposed ideas about what the grant could offer:

  • Targeted support of students at risk of dropping out.
  • Creating a more focused intervention structure.
  • Building and sustaining a network of community services required to support students and eliminate overlap of services.
  • Increasing meaningful parent participation in boosting student achievement.
  • Providing after-school programs with an emphasis on math and science tutors.
  • Increasing access to college awareness curriculum, campus visits, SAT/ACT preparation and student success strategies.
  • Focusing on professional development for teachers and guidance staff to create intentional advising to close the achievement gap.

Fulton said district staff has been substantially planning the application since October. The proposal is due in June.

“We are working as hard as we can to make a strong proposal,” Fulton said. “We are also working smart by partnering with the University of Washington.”