Local & Regional
7:37 pm
Wed July 14, 2010

Special Funding for Tulsa Schools

Tulsa, OK – Students at several of TPS' highest-need schools will be spending significantly more time in the classroom, thanks to millions of dollars in support from the federal government.

"This announcement could not have come at a better time," said Dr. Keith Ballard, the superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools. "After months of cuts to our budget, we now have significant funding to implement innovative programs that ensure our mission of providing quality learning experiences for every student, every day, without exception."

The Oklahoma Department of Education, which is responsible for administering the federal funds, announced on Wednesday the grants to six TPS schools. Funds range from $2-4 million annually and are paid out over a three-year span. The grants will help pay for extended learning days for two middle schools and six additional days for four high schools.

The following schools will receive a portion of the School Improvement Grants: Clinton Middle School - $3,708,204; Gilcrease Middle School - $4,932,665; Central High School - 2,664,689; East Central High School - $3,833,763; Hale High School - $3,510,217; Rogers High School - $3,808,763.

Kevin Burr, TPS associate superintendent for secondary schools, said the district is "truly fortunate" to have received the grants.

"Despite state budget cuts, we have been on the cusp of almost revolutionary school improvement in the district," Burr said. "These grants will help us implement the changes we have researched and planned for, but wouldn't have otherwise had the funding to put in place."

Schools that receive SIG awards must meet two basic requirements: learning time must increase by 90 minutes per day for middle schools and six days per year for high schools. Teachers must also be given 90 minutes per week of uninterrupted professional development in teacher "learning communities." Through the grant, Clinton and Gilcrease will extend their learning days by 90 minutes per day. During the first year of the grant, high schools can either add six days to their school calendars, 30 minutes of extra learning time each day (up to 48 hours total), or Saturday school. In the second and third years, high schools must add the days to the beginning and end of their school year.

"This will undoubtedly lead to improved student achievement," Ballard said. "I witnessed first-hand the success of extended learning time when I went to the National Center on Time and Learning in Massachusetts with State Superintendent Sandy Garrett and Oklahoma City Superintendent Karl Springer last year. That was when I determined TPS should study it."

SIG funds will pay the portion of teacher salaries and professional development that result from an extended day or school year. After the first year of the agreement, SIG will also help fund transportation costs and teacher incentive pay based on student academic growth. The grant also pays for a transformation coach for each school.

TPS applied for the grant last spring. Schools considered for the grants are considered "Tier I," which are historically Oklahoma's lowest-achieving Title I schools.