Awards promote innovation in STEM education, applied learning and charter schools
Gov. Nathan Deal today announced nine winners of Innovation Fund grants, a $19.4 million competitive grant program created through Georgia’s Race to the Top (RT3) plan. Through the Innovation Fund, the state awards grants to partnerships between local education authorities or charter schools, institutions of higher education, businesses and nonprofit organizations that develop or implement innovative and high-impact programs aimed at producing positive outcomes for students.
"The Innovation Fund empowers local communities to work together and think creatively about how to best address their educational needs,” Deal said. “The nine grant awards we make today represent a wide range of projects with the potential to serve as tomorrow’s best practices.”
The nine selected grant recipients are:
• Building the Pipeline of Highly Effective Charter Teachers and Leaders – The Georgia Charter Schools Association and Lake Oconee Academy will develop and expand three recruitment, training and alternate certification programs to attract, support and retain highly effective teachers and leaders in the charter school sector.
• Community Partnership for a Quality Pipeline of Effective High School Leaders – The Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement will support Paulding County School System to build district capacity and create a pipeline of effective high school leaders.
• Computational Thinking: 21st Century STEM Problem-Solving Skills for Georgia Students – The Georgia Institute of Technology will work with B.E. Mays High School and Tapjoy, Inc. to incorporate computational thinking into high school STEM curricula, teaching students to construct models to simulate, visualize and solve real-world problems.
• Charter System Leadership Development and Governance Certification Program – As a newly approved charter system, Fulton County Schools and its partners will launch the Leadership and Innovation Academy, a program to equip principals and School Governance Councils with the skills they need to successfully operate and govern a charter school.
• Drew Charter School Partnership for Expansion – Drew Charter School, the Georgia Tech Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (GT CEISMC), the Georgia State University School of Music and others will expand Drew’s highly successful pre-K-8 STEAM curriculum to grades 9-12, creating a true cradle-to-college pipeline serving inner-city students.
• Greene County STEAM TLA Collaborative – Greene County Schools, the Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Georgia faculty and Ed Innovation Partners seek to open a charter school in Greene County with the mission of increasing the number of students who choose STEM fields as a career.
• Museum in a Box – The Museum School of Avondale Estates will work with Zoo Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, the Atlanta History Center and others to expand the school’s highly successful museum-based learning strategy to metro-area schools.
• Real STEM – A partnership between Georgia Southern University, seven area research institutes and six school districts to develop hands-on STEM learning modules related to the environmental concerns of Georgia’s coastal region.
• Rockdale 21st Century Academy of Environmental Studies – Rockdale County Schools, in partnership with GT CEISMC and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), will create a STEM-focused middle grades school that provides students with portfolio and project-based learning modules.
Administered by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA), the Innovation Fund provides competitive grants for proposals that creatively leverage members’ financial, human and intellectual resources to address one or more of the following priorities:
• Raising student achievement through the development and delivery of applied learning opportunities and experiences directly tied to a subject matter, especially in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
• Raising teacher effectiveness through support for innovative induction programs to bridge the gap between pre-service and career teaching, focusing on providing structured and intensive support to new teachers and leaders.
• Increasing the pipeline of effective educators by developing local capacity through Grow Your Own Teacher programs in rural regions to increase the workforce, especially in high-need subject areas.
• Developing or expanding charter schools with special characteristics and that leverage nontraditional partnerships with industry partners and/or post-secondary institutions throughout the state to provide students with unique learning opportunities.
Applicants were also able to apply under an “open” priority, with the only criteria being that the proposal concept is new to the state of Georgia and an “out of the box” idea that poses a significant impact to student achievement.
GOSA received more than 75 requests to apply for round three and invited 50 applicants to submit proposals. The Innovation Fund Advisory Board, comprised of members of the business, education and philanthropic communities, is charged with making recommendations to the governor for funding.
The state will use the Innovation Fund to determine best practices in innovative programming related to STEM education, applied learning and teacher and leader recruitment and development to influence future education policy efforts. At the core of the Innovation Fund is the following theory: IF public and private organizations are encouraged by financial resources, policy environments and supportive operating conditions, THEN the state of Georgia will be benefit from a stronger commitment from diverse stakeholders to support and advance K-12 public education, the ability to replicate innovative practices with a demonstrated record of success, and ultimately, improved outcomes for students.
Information about the Innovation Fund may be found on the GOSA website (www.gaosa.org).
The state has awarded fourteen Innovation Fund grants in two previous grant cycles. The round one grant winners are:
• Drew Charter School Partners of Innovation – A partnership between Georgia State University and Georgia Institute for Technology and Drew Charter School to create one of the state’s first STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) schools.
• Teach for Georgia – A teacher pipeline program modeled after Teach for America that will recruit Georgia Institute for Technology STEM majors to teach in rural areas of Georgia.
• 21st Century STEM Collaborations: Applications of the Direct to Discovery Model – A collaboration between Barrow County Schools and the Georgia Institute for Technology to integrate the Direct to Discovery method into the requirements of the Georgia Performance Standards.
• The KIPP Teacher Fellows Program – A teacher induction program that will train Georgia State University and Mercer University College of Education graduates and deploy them to metro Atlanta schools where they are most needed.
• The Regional Charter STEM Academy – A partnership between White, Hall and Lumpkin county school systems and North Georgia College & State University to create a tri-county STEM charter school.
The round two grant winners are:
• Murray County STEM Academy – Murray County Schools, in partnership with Georgia Northwestern Technical College, the Chatsworth-Murray County Chamber of Commerce and others will open program focused on remediating eighth grade students and developing their interest in STEM careers.
• The New Teacher Residency Project – A partnership between Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School and Georgia State University College of Education to address fundamental flaws in the traditional new teacher induction model.
• Smyrna Academy of Excellence – The Smyrna Educational Alliance, in partnership with Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Lockheed Martin Corp. and others, seeks to open a STEM charter school serving students in south Cobb County.
• STEM for Life Program – A partnership between Carroll County Schools and Southwire to expand and replicate the existing 12 for Life Program, which supplements classroom learning with real-world experience in advanced manufacturing.
• The STEM Targeted Education Program (STEP) Academy – An accelerated coursework, mentoring and Biotechnology Research and Development career pathway program serving at-risk overage eighth grade students in Gwinnett County Public Schools through a partnership with Gwinnett Technical College and the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce.
• Student Applied Learning, New Teacher Induction and Staff Leadership Program – Morehouse College, in partnership with Clayton County Schools, will provide an interwoven approach to applied learning and teacher professional development through the implementation of a summer student research and teacher development program.
• Teach to Learn – A teacher induction program that builds a comprehensive support bridge between teacher preparation at the University of Georgia and teacher induction in Clarke County Schools while building school leadership capacity.
• Tift County Mechatronics Partnership – Tift County Schools, in partnership with Moultrie Technical College, ConAgra Foods, Heatcraft Manufacturing and others, will develop a career pathway focused on Mechatronics, an interdisciplinary field of study involving control systems, electronic systems, computers and mechanical systems, that will equip students to work in a variety of industrial, manufacturing and health sciences settings.
• UGA/GAEL Early Career Principal Residency Program – The University of Georgia and the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders will implement a two-year induction program for early career principals in the state’s lowest achieving schools.
Georgia was awarded $400 million to implement its RT3 reform plan in August 2010. The state’s application was prepared with extensive input from education stakeholders and members of the business and philanthropic communities, who helped develop the idea to include the Innovation Fund in the state’s application. As interest in the Innovation Fund grows, the state will seek contributions from philanthropic organizations, nonprofits and businesses as a continuing source of start-up capital for promising innovations.
The Race to the Top fund is a $4 billion grant opportunity to support new approaches to improve schools. The fund was made available in the form of competitive grants to encourage and reward states that are creating conditions for education innovation and reform, specifically implementing ambitious plans in four education reform areas:
• Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
• Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
• Recruiting, preparing, rewarding and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
• Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.
Georgia’s reform plan focuses on strengthening traditional and alternative preparation programs for teachers and leaders, supporting teachers more effectively in the classroom, evaluating teachers and leaders with consistent and objective criteria, rewarding great teachers and leaders with performance-based salary increases, and more effectively using data to inform decision-making, among other things.