Schools Win $450K For “Student-Centered Learning”

Based in part on groundwork laid by the city’s experimental high school, the New Haven public schools have won a half-million dollars to start shifting high schools from a system based on seat time to one in which kids have to show “mastery” of skills to move through high school.

Nellie Mae Education Foundation (NMEF), which describes itself as “the largest charitable organization in New England focused exclusively on education,” chose New Haven as one of seven urban districts to receive a total of $3.15 million to support new forms of “student-centered learning.”

New Haven will receive $450,000 over a 20-month period, the school system announced Thursday. Click here to read a narrative of how the schools propose to use the money.

The grant builds on a new mastery-based system pioneered at High School in the Community (HSC), the city’s union-run “turnaround” school. In a dramatic effort to end social promotion, the school now requires students to show “mastery” of various skills before moving up; they can no longer pass through high school with Cs or Ds. Teachers at HSC developed new ways of grading kids, and new curricula, based on the Common Core State Standards, a new national curriculum adopted by 45 states. The system allows kids to learn at their own pace instead of moving up on a standard timeline based on seat time.

According to the grant application, the new money will help New Haven expand mastery-based learning to five other high schools: New Haven Academy, the Metropolitan Business Academy, Sound School, Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School and Wilbur Cross High School. The first of four of those schools have already been working towards a mastery-based system; Cross, the city’s largest high school, would be a new addition.

Some money will also go towards the city’s new vo-tech high school program, Gateway Technical Institute (GTI), which is set to debut this fall. Steve Pynn, the principal of GTI, will oversee the administration of the grant.

Proposed expenditures include $112,500 for 75 teachers to get professional training over the summer, and $195,000 for “professional development contractors.”

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posted by: timshortty on April 4, 2013  8:07pm

Why do all of these initiatives always lock in at the latter end of the spectrum when it all starts at the other end?  Seems too much like chasing our tails.  To me, these resources belong upfront.  Maybe I’m crazy.

posted by: Brutus2011 on April 4, 2013  8:23pm

The last sentence of this article reports that, “Proposed expenditures include $112,500 for 75 teachers to get professional training over the summer and $195,000 for “professional development contractors.”

This means that the contractors will receive almost half of the grant.

I call for a complete accounting or breakdown of expenditures. Additionally, the BOE or NHPS should be transparent about how the professional development contractors are chosen and specifically if the contracts are put out to bid.

Here is what concerns me—every time a grant comes in, it gets spent before it reaches the classroom. Some may say that I am ignorant of management requirements, etc. but frankly, all I know is that the money never gets to the classrooms.

Public or private education managers are all into their personal bottom lines more than taking care of business on the ground.

People:  Wake up and start demanding an accounting of the disbursement of your public education tax dollars—here at the local level and at the state level.