Fort Osage Race to the Top Grant
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are we applying for the Race to the Top grant?
In introducing the Race to the Top (RTT) grant, the Department of Education is seeking proposals from districts that serve high-need populations (40% or more free/reduced lunch), have data systems in place to monitor the achievement of each student, and who are showing improved achievement as a result of their efforts. The grant is intended to help such districts ‘personalize’ education for students in their district. Since Fort Osage clearly meets these criteria, and this personalization goal matches so well with planning for a 1:1 computing initiative, the Cabinet decided it was worthwhile to pursue the $10-$20 million funding, even though the chances of earning the grant are quite slim. The plans made for the grant will serve double-duty since we hope to achieve many of these same goals with or without the federal funding.
How can the grant funds be spent?
The district will have to develop a detailed and comprehensive budget for the grant funds. The plan will determine the exact amount requested within the $10-20 million range. The money will be spent over four years, and can be used in a wide variety of ways, although not for extensive building or remodeling projects. While the budget has not been developed, we ultimately expect funds to go toward: staff salaries and stipends, computer equipment and the infrastructure required to provide access across the district, extensive professional development, other materials and supplies needed to personalize education, and purchased services such as transportation for extended day and/or summer programs. Once the budget is developed more specifics will be shared through the district website.
How many districts are applying for the grant?
There’s no way to know for certain, but a total of 893 districts and consortia of districts have submitted their ‘intent to apply’ through the RTT website. With an estimated 15-25 total grants funded, each district has a statistical chance of about 2%. Since grants will be evaluated on merit, rather that through a lottery, we hope our chances are better than that, but the competition will be tough. A total of 23 Missouri districts have expressed an interest, including Independence, Raytown, and North Kansas City in our area.
What happens after the money is spent?
One component of the grant application is a sustainability plan to show how the district will continue with the initiative after funding ends. The district will need to be thoughtful about how the grant funding is budgeted, and be particuarly careful about adding the expense of additional staff that couldn’t be sustained in the long run. This will be an important consideration as the budget is developed.
One to One Initiative Frequently Asked Questions
Will students actually be taking computers home with them every night?
There are many models for 1:1 computing or digital learning initiatives, and the Fort Osage model will be based on our needs and our ability to fund the program. Ultimately, the vision is that older students would have computers assigned specifically to them, and that they would take them home every night just as they would a textbook or binder.
What kind of computers will we be using for students?
There are many devices on the market, and they each has pros and cons depending on the intended use. The data from recent staff and student surveys will be used to determine the priority features for devices used at different grade levels. We expect that kindergarteners may need something different than high school students, and whether or not we have millions of dollars in grant funding will also impact our decisions about devices (obviously).
Will parents have to pay for the computers? What about those who can’t afford it?
This is a question we have yet to answer. Many districts will 1:1 initiatives charge parents an annual ‘usage fee’ to help defray the cost of maintenance and repairs. Those districts most always have provisions for low income families to apply for assistance if they can’t afford the fee. Another option is a deposit that is returned at the end of the year if the machine is returned undamaged. More information about this issue will be shared as the plan evolves.
What if parents don’t want their students to have a computer?
Specific procedures will have to be developed for this contingency. Since the computer will be an integral resource for students at school, they will need to have a device to use during the day regardless of whether parents want the machine brought home.
How will teachers be trained to use the computers with students?
Professional development for staff will be a primary consideration in whatever plan is developed. We believe that teachers will need to have the devices in their hands well before the students receive them so that they can get comfortable with the machine itself. Additionally, teachers will need ongoing training in strategies and resources to help them integrate technology into their current instruction, as well as professional development to help teachers think about their role and responsibility differently as they are able to differentiate and facilitate learning more than ever before.