This week, the U.S. Department of Education announced 16 winners of federal Race to the Top funds across the country - out of 372 applications -and we got a huge victory here in Washington State. Seven South King County school districts collaboratively applied as “The Road Map District Consortium” and were one of only two applications to be awarded the maximum amount possible - $40 million.
The districts include Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, Seattle, and Tukwila and their collaborative application is in reference to their participation in the Road Map Project. For more than two years, OneAmerica has been a key leader of the Road Map Project, a collaborative effort to dramatically improve education in South Seattle and South King County. OneAmerica has led efforts to improve academic outcomes for English Language Learners (ELL) through guiding a technical work group focused on systemic change. For the Race to the Top proposal, the seven districts worked actively together as part of the Road Map Project and leveraged the project’s existing framework and networks centered on collective action to develop their powerful proposal which included a significant focus as well as funding that promotes ELL student success.
This $40 million grant will help further break down the education barriers within our school system and help fund ELL students and the efforts of the Road Map ELL Work Group. The Work Group works to build systems level actions and strategies that will improve ELL student achievement in South King County, including
- identifying ELL specific performance indicators that can be used as part of the Road Map;
- sharing best practices between districts;
- working with early learning and higher education to create pipelines for ELL students;
- and advocating for local and state policy issues relevant to ELLs.
The work group is made up of district superintendents, school board members, program directors, researchers, community advocates and local policy makers to ultimately change outcomes for ELL students.
"This huge achievement reveals the powerful impact of collaboration between community-based organizations, districts, unions, and cities all with the shared goal of transformative change within schools," said OneAmerica Policy Director Ada Williams Prince. "These funds are a victory for students and families across South King County, including the 500 immigrant parents OneAmerica surveyed to help inform the recommendations for English Language Learners."
Given the growing educational opportunity gap in Washington State, OneAmerica’s members have identified education as a top priority for our communities with the belief that race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status should not prevent children from obtaining an exceptional education. OneAmerica published the results of our massive survey in a report this year called Breaking Down Education Barriers: Lessons from Immigrant Youth and Families in South King County as part of its larger education policy work. The Road Map’s Race to the Top application included a huge focus on improving instruction, parent engagement, and academic support for English Language Learners and their families.
The Road Map District Consortium proposal uses a cradle-to-college approach and is designed to make big improvements along the entire education continuum. The districts’ application covers 147,000 students, including 36,000 high-need children, and 261 schools across the region. Other winners across the country received anywhere from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the number of students served.
The Consortium plans on using the $40 million grant on a number of new efforts including providing summer reading plans for students in low-income neighborhoods, doubling the number of students who take algebra by the end of eighth grade, and providing computer-based math-tutoring programs that many students can use at home or school. For English Language Learners they will increase the number of teachers training to teach language acquisition, improve data collection for this population and expanding efforts to allow students to gain credits based on knowledge of their native language. Read more about the Road Map plans.
A major focus was put on immigrant students in the application because in the Road Map region alone, 16% of students are classified as ELL, while 37% of kindergarteners are placed into ELL and typically reach English proficiency in three to five years. The recent Road Map result report revealed that some improvements are already being made in this area as 76% of ELL students had shown progress in learning English. Although this is the case, it is critical that ELL programs are properly funded by the state and taught by highly-qualified educators using research-based instructional strategies. Not only do ELL students and their families need in-school support, but it is important for local community organizations to provide out-of school support to help parents understand and navigate the school system and to become strong advocates for their children’s education.
OneAmerica is on the sponsors committee that heads up the Road Map project along with The Seattle Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The League of Education Voters, Seattle Community Colleges District, City of Seattle, Puget Sound Educational Service District, Technology Access Foundation and University of Washington. Many other partners are also actively involved to ensure kids will be supported by their city governments, housing and health services providers, and after-school programs. This is truly a community-wide effort to raise achievement and we congratulate everyone involved in this huge accomplishment!
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