December 12, 2012

UW Dream Project named in $40 million federal Race to the Top grant

By UW Dream Project

A grant application written jointly by seven King County school districts, which named the University of Washington Dream Project as one of the subcontractors, has won $40 million in federal Race to the Top funds, the U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday.

The Auburn, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Renton, Seattle and Tukwila school districts competed together this fall as “The Road Map District Consortium,” a reference to their participation in the Road Map Project. The Road Map Project is a collaborative effort to dramatically improve education in South Seattle and South King County.

The King County districts’ application was among 16 winners selected out of 372 applications. Awards ranged from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the number of students served by the plan. The Road Map District Consortium was one of only two applicants to win the maximum award of $40 million.

The UW Dream Project, which serves all seven school districts in the Road Map Region by partnering nearly 600 undergraduate mentors with 1,800 high school students at 16 schools, was named as one of the community partners that will receive funding from the grant over the next four years.

The grant’s theme for work in the region is “Start Strong, STEM Strong, Stay Strong.” As part of the “Stay Strong” portion of the grant, funding for the UW Dream Project will support counselor assistants in middle and high schools across the region as well as training and programmatic support for college and career readiness.

The idea for counselor interns was derived from the UW Dream Project’s strategy of making undergraduate mentors available to high school students inside and outside of class time to support students’ college readiness efforts. These counselor interns will be experienced undergraduate Dream Project mentors who have built relationships with students and staff in the Road Map region schools.

Through the counselor assistants, the UW Dream Project’s work will now be expanded at many high schools by supporting students’ preparation for and taking of rigorous courses throughout high school, their selection of and applications to colleges, and their navigation of high school graduation requirements, standardized tests, and financial aid.

The UW Dream Project will still be responsible for fundraising ongoing operations funding, as the counselor assistant positions are part of a new initiative that will be added to the existing work of the program.

According to the proposal: “Grant funds will be spent to (1) establish a college and career readiness advising training system and (2) expand on the University of Washington Dream Project partnership to provide Counselor Assistants. Dollars will be spent on targeted professional development and coaching of existing middle and high school counselors to support postsecondary guidance, including High School and Beyond planning and career awareness support.”

Leaders at the University of Washington were happy to hear the news. UW College of Education dean Tom Stritikus said, “We were excited to learn that the UW Dream Project will grow and scale up its efforts with our Road Map Region partner districts.This kind of collaborative P-20 support is a model for community renewal and a reflection of the UW College of Education’s vision for our work.”

“I am inspired and hopeful about the work that the UW Dream Project has done in collaboration with community-based leaders to solve some of the most stubbornly persistent educational problems in our region,” said Ed Taylor, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs. “The Race to the Top grant helps alleviate gaps in school achievement and reduce barriers that impede all kids from having the opportunity to learn and live well.”

The winning plan includes many community partners as well as its seven districts, and covers 261 schools and 150,000 students, including 36,000 high-need children. The districts will use the four-year Race to the Top grant to implement the following plans to help students “Start Strong,” be “STEM Strong” and “Stay Strong”:

Start Strong – We know that early learning is critical

  • Provide funds to help districts work with preschools and early learning programs to help kids be ready to be successful in kindergarten
  • Improve math, science and English Language Learner (ELL) teaching and leadership approaches so all students receive high-quality instruction

STEM Strong – We live in a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-intensive region

  • Provide a computer-based math instructional program for all high-need K-8th grade students that they can use in school and at home
  • Help students explore STEM careers via online tools, speakers, mentors and internships
  • Be a leader in implementing Next Generation Science Standards

Stay Strong – These strategies will help more students be successful in postsecondary education

  • Offer all students the opportunity to take the SAT and PSAT in school for free
  • Offer training for middle and high school guidance counselors and provide counselor assistants to better serve more students
  • Offer districts the opportunity to the Advanced Placement (AP) course selections for students and help more teachers to get AP course training. Also, provide the opportunity to include more STEM, International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, world language and career certificate options

The Dream Project really looks forward to being able to do deeper work at our partner schools and being able to see more students on a weekly or daily basis.

For more information about about the Road Map District Consortium grant, visit the Road Map Project.

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