Kansas City, May 25, 2018: Three schools within the Kansas City Public Schools system are getting financial and academic booster rockets to reach the next level of achievement thanks to a new grant initiative by SchoolSmartKC.
SchoolSmartKC recently revealed that Gladstone Elementary School and Wendell Phillips Elementary School will each be receiving $600,000 and Northeast High School will receive approximately $200,000 under the Strategic Growth Program. The program was launched in 2017 as a KCPS-SchoolSmartKC partnership in order to identify schools that are making promising improvements and provide them with the resources they need to meet and exceed state standards for public schools.
“This is exceptionally great news for three of our schools that are working hard every day to provide the world-class education our students deserve,” Superintendent Mark Bedell said. “We are extremely grateful to everyone at SchoolSmartKC for partnering with us to nurture a great school system for our community. We know that schools can’t do this work alone, and that funder support is key. This is an excellent example of what we can achieve when we work together.”
SchoolSmartKC hosted a celebration on Tuesday, May 30 at its Kansas City office to honor all of the staff members at the eight schools that participated in the School Growth Program this academic year.
The grant awards are the end of a process that began last fall with strategic plan development proposals submitted by eight KCPS schools. KCPS and SchoolSmartKC-funded experts then supported school leaders and staff members through a series of rigorous evaluations and strategy sessions to develop, plan and prepare for the schools’ growth and improvement.
The teams at Gladstone Elementary, Phillips Elementary and Northeast HS will now have three years to use the grant funds to implement the strategic plans already developed. KCPS and SchoolSmartKC will provide ongoing support during this second phase.
Gladstone Elementary has about 500 students; 51 percent are classified as Hispanic and 59 percent are English Language Learners. Under Principal Dana Carter’s leadership, Gladstone is meeting Missouri’s “90/90” attendance standard (90 percent of students attending 90 percent of their classes), her students have made significant achievement gains in math and English language arts, and the school recently moved off the state’s “focus” list due to academic growth.
Gladstone Elementary plans to use the grant to develop the classroom skills of teachers by showing them how to breakdown state standards into management components and implement data-driven instruction, according to Ms. Carter. The school will also bring in experts to increase literacy and help develop a “whole-child” support system for students who face trauma outside of school.
“This is an opportunity for Gladstone to really shoot for the stars,” Carter said. “With this grant, we’re going to be able to get the resources in hand that we need to help our students.”
Phillips Elementary has about 300 students, is meeting the 90/90 attendance standard and making gains in math and English achievement, and also lifted itself out of “focus” status in 2017. That happened even as Phillips relocated to a new campus and welcomed new students from a KCPS school that closed in 2016.
Principal Deloris Brown and her team intend to use the grant to transition Phillips into a trauma-sensitive school through intense, targeted training and professional development across the building. School staff will learn how to utilize achievement data and will ensure that the data is available for all educators in the building. They will also increase student attendance and success by improving parent engagement; that will include a new, three-day “boot camp” for kindergarteners and their parents this summer at the school.
“We really believe that if we invest in our staff and parents, that’s going to be returned to us in a very big way,” Ms. Brown said. “This puts us in a position to respond to the needs of our students and parents.”
Northeast HS has about 650 students, 47 percent of whom are classified as Hispanic and 34 percent as African American. With Principal Doug Bolden at the helm, the school’s graduation rate has increased from 54 percent in 2015 to 68 percent in 2017.
The grant implementation plan at Northeast is focused on providing high quality professional development for teachers in core subjects and staff field trips to learn best practices from educators at schools that have made similar improvements. The school will also increase Advanced Placement opportunities for students, and launch an “Advancement Via Individual Determination” (AVID) program to develop student leaders.
“This grant is exciting because it creates a lot of opportunities for us,” Mr. Bolden said. “We are going to change our culture, which will help our kids move forward and compete with students from across the country.”