Ten schools throughout Tennessee that are academically behind are divvying up $8.25 million in new federal grants for school improvement, the state Department of Education announced Monday.
Each school will receive $275,000 per year over three years to total $825,000. Four schools in the state’s turnaround Achievement School District netted the competitive grants, which are going to be used for bolstering strong leadership, talent management, effective instruction, and student support.
The money will be a welcome boost to the state-run district, which is tasked with improving schools in the state’s bottom 5 percent academically. The grants give schools the flexibility to add staff members or new programs to areas that will help their students improve, which is especially helpful to the schools that serve students in low-income areas and have historically been under-enrolled and under-funded.
For Memphis Scholars Raleigh Egypt, the new funding will go toward reading intervention for its middle school students, and more behavior and social work support.
“We know that one of the biggest difference makers for our kids is the ability to read and read well,” said James Dennis, interim leader of Memphis Scholars. “The grant will be a steroid shot to our efforts to meet our kids where they are. It will also go toward additional wraparound services, behavior and social work support. It will help us get to the bottom of some of the issues preventing our students from learning at high levels.”
The schools awarded are:
- Georgian Hills Achievement Elementary School, Achievement School District
- Memphis Scholars Raleigh Egypt, Achievement School District
- LEAD Neely’s Bend Middle School, Achievement School District
- Libertas at Brookmeade, Achievement School District
- Antioch Middle School, Metro Nashville Public Schools
- Calvin Donaldson Elementary School, Hamilton County Schools
- Orchard Knob Middle School, Hamilton County Schools
- McKissack Middle School, Metro Nashville Public Schools
- McMurray Middle School, Metro Nashville Public Schools
- The Howard School, Hamilton County Schools
These grants are provided through Title I funds from the U.S. Department of Education and must be used to support schools on the state’s lists of academically struggling schools.
“It is imperative that we provide additional support to schools that serve our students who are furthest behind and believe it is important to allow districts the autonomy to leverage what works in their local schools,” outgoing Education Commission Candice McQueen said.
It’s significant that four of the 30 schools in the Achievement School District made it through the competitive statewide application, said Sharon Griffin, leader of the district and assistant commissioner for school turnaround.
It’s “a tremendous accomplishment for our district and our operators,” Griffin said. “It’s even more impressive to know that we are the one school district in West Tennessee to have schools that were approved.”
For Georgian Hills Achievement Elementary, the announcement of the new funding fell on the first day of school after three weeks of heating problems. Bobby White, chief of external affairs for the Achievement School District, said it made the day even more of a celebration.
“This funding over three years is going to be huge for this school, as well as the other schools awarded for turnaround strategies,” White said.