Jun 17th 2010

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Using Grants to Fund Innovative School Programs & Services

Brian S. Friedlander, PhD

To say the least, these have been challenging times for schools. Schools across the United States are feeling the impact of the recession and the tough economic climate. This has had a significant impact on budgets; schools are in a position where, unfortunately, they have had to cut teachers and services to students in their school districts.  It would seem that just as we are about to round the corner and are making strides in improving the achievement of students in our schools, the rug has been pulled from under us. Schools will have to do more with less. Many institutions who find themselves in this position have been looking for grants and foundation money to help support their programs and provide quality education services to their students.

During this past year, I have been able to provide assistive technology consulting services to many schools under President Obama’s, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. One of the priorities under this Act was the purchase of assistive technology and professional development to insure the equipment was being used properly. Many schools that I have worked with have budgeted for the purchase of assistive technology software and services which truly support students in the classroom. While many schools have already planned how they will be spending their grant money, there is still one more year under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for schools to invest in assistive technology and professional services. Now is a great time to sit down with your stakeholders and look to see how you can support students in the mainstream with assistive technology. Using programs like Ginger can help support students in the mainstream and assist them in their written language skills. Teachers who are using Ginger in the classroom could use the Frequent Error Reports to easily track students’ progress and the errors they make. Having a snapshot of each student’s errors is a great way to chart their progress and provide them with the personalized instruction that they need. The reports also provide great visibility to the levels of writing of all the students in the school, providing principles and administrators with valuable statistics on the amounts of text written, the kinds of errors all students are making, and their progress. Administrators can identify effective instruction methods which may be adopted school wide. In order for schools to become more efficient, they will need to look to instructional and assistive technologies that can provide students with the support they need and educators with the data to support it.

As school budgets continue to shrink, it will become more important for schools to take advantage of grant and foundation money they can use to support their assistive technology programs. In recent months, many states have applied for the Phase 2 of Race to the Top Funds, which was designed to promote State Departments of Education to adopt new policies and practices for school wide reform. Phase 2 of Race to the Top Fund is a $3.4 billion dollar grant that will be awarded at the end of the summer. It is important for educators to be aware of these programs and start a dialogue as to how this money will be spent for new and innovative educational practices. Some schools will be using this money to purchase computers and software- a great way to support students in the mainstream. To keep abreast of grants and other funding resources you may visit: http://www.eschoolnews.com/funding/

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