By NEWS-TIMES STAFF
An education grant from the Department of Defense will finance intensive three-year training to improve math and literacy instruction at the secondary level in Oak Harbor schools.
Oak Harbor School District was awarded a $1.89 million grant to increase college and career readiness in literacy and math. The grant will fund a plan to improve instruction in grades six to 12 using “proven research-based techniques” that lead to “greater student engagement and higher expectations” in the classroom, according to a press release.
This is the second consecutive year Oak Harbor has been awarded funding from the Department of Defense Education Activity for professional development. Last year’s $2.16 million grant focused on improving reading for preschool through fifth grade.
Both grants are spread out over three years. The funds must be used according to the grant specifications and cannot be used to supplement ongoing expenses or replace any personnel or programs lost through the last three years of budget cuts.
Work on the new project, titled “College and Career Ready through High Expectations and Engagement,” is already under way. The grant will pay for math, English, science, social studies and other teachers to return during the summer for intensive “academies,” with follow-up training both inside and outside the classroom during the school year. The program uses nationally-recognized education specialists who will work with Oak Harbor teachers over the next three years.
“This is about raising the bar in Oak Harbor,” Assistant Superintendent Lance Gibbon, who wrote the grant, said in a press release. “The hallmark of high-achieving schools is they have high expectations for all kids.”
Gibbon said that one indicator of the grant’s success will be in future years seeing more kids taking higher level courses at Oak Harbor High School and succeeding. It’s not necessarily about more kids going to college, he said.
“It’s about them being ready for their next step, whatever that might be — college, trade school, or the military,” he said.
“Part of this is about how we change the culture so that students get the message that they can do more and that they are expected to do more,” Gibbon said. “We want students to fully believe they are capable of succeeding at whatever they set their minds to do.”
The first year will emphasize reading and writing in core content classes with specialized support in math. Years two and three will place greater emphasis on applied math and science.
“Science is the practical application of both math and reading,” Gibbon said.
Through the grant, Oak Harbor will contract with CORE, a private firm made up of teachers with expertise in improving literacy and math achievement. CORE is the group doing much of the training at the elementary level and it will provide strong connection and alignment between the two grants, Gibbon said.
The Southern Regional Education Board will be conducting specialized training in all subject areas. SREB is the same group behind the nationally-acclaimed “High Schools That Work” initiative and its companion program, “Making Middle Grades Work.” Oak Harbor has been working on implementing these programs for the last few years, but without any funding for training.
Those programs each focus on 10 specific practices of effective schools. “This grant takes two key components — high expectations and student engagement — and places them front and center,” Gibbon said. “It means we finally have the funds to take what we’ve been talking about, provide the specific training needed and follow up with in-class support.”
Laura Fortin, a math and English teacher at OHHS since 1999, will serve as the full-time project manager for the duration of the grant. High school teachers Molly Butler, Andy Wesley and Jonathon Frostad will oversee the English, math and science portions of the grant. Each will take a one-year leave from teaching.