The Edmond Sun
Edmond Memorial High School is one of six Oklahoma schools that will divide $400,000 in grant money from the Oklahoma State Department of Education as part of the Raise the Grade Together initiative designed to strengthen communities and school districts with financial support.
Thursday the State Department of Education announced Memorial will receive $117,000 and will partner with Justice A.W. SeeWorth Academy Charter School, near 122nd Street and Kelley Avenue in Oklahoma City. Memorial faculty will work with SeeWorth faculty as they strive to raise the students’ interest in learning as well as grades with activities designed to strengthen the school’s effectiveness.
“As a professional learning community, nothing is more important to the staff at Memorial than ongoing teacher learning which leads to continuous improvement,” Memorial principal Debbie Bendick said. “The Rewards School grant will fund countless opportunities for our staff members to participate in workshops that will help them refine existing and develop new teaching strategies.”
Bendick said the school’s partnership with teachers from SeeWorth Academy, who will also attend the workshops, will provide both staffs with a forum for collegial discussion, planning and reflection on best practices.
“I can’t underscore enough the impact that ongoing professional development has on student learning,” she said. “With the diminishing budgets all of us must manage, it has been increasingly difficult to afford quality professional development; so the Rewards grant promised us the possibility of significant funding.”
Bendick said she plans to build a community bridge across the different groups of stakeholders, starting with the alumni.
“With graduates as far back as 1922, it seems odd, but very true, that we have never had an alumni organization. So, one of our first tasks is to begin to create an alumni club,” she said.
Bendick said she hopes to bridge the past Edmond High School and Memorial High School alumni with the current students creating a vision of past, present and future excellence.
“That is definitely something to celebrate,” Bendick said.
“We are also going to capitalize on our record of excellence in what we are calling “EMHS=A to the fifth power. It stands for our record of excellence in Academics, Arts, Athletics, Activities and Altruism.”
Reward School grants were part of the FY 2013 activities budget approved by the State Board of Education last year.
“These schools are among the best performing schools in the state,” said State Superintendent Janet Barresi. “To qualify for the grants, these educators had to be willing to share their best practices and educational strategies with schools in the most need. I’m thrilled to be able to offer this financial incentive for excellence and am pleased with the willingness to embrace such partnerships.”
The six schools chosen to receive grant money all received “A’s” on their Report Cards issued in the fall and chose schools that were labeled Priority Schools to partner with during the school year.
Reward Schools are designated as high achieving in all state assessments or showing high progress in reading and math. As part of the grant application, Reward Schools had to propose a partnership with a Priority School, those that are in the bottom 5 percent of achievement in the state in reading and mathematics, have a graduation rate below 60 percent for at least three years, or have received a School Improvement Grant (SIG).
The other five schools receiving grant money include: Earl Harris Elementary School in Bethany ($71,000), which will partner with Council Grove Elementary School in the Western Heights School District; Adair High School ($47,000), which will partner with Okay High School; Ripley Elementary School ($47,000), which will partner with Yarbrough Elementary School; Kingfisher High School ($71,000), which will partner with Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City; and Ryal Public School ($47,000), which will partner with Hanna Elementary School.
The new A-F Report Cards implemented for the 2012-13 school year were based on data from the previous school year. In addition to providing understandable and concise information with easy access, the State Department of Education states, the letter grades provide an opportunity for everyone to raise the grade together as schools look for improvement.
In 2011 the State Department of Education started the REAC3H Network, which stands for Regional Educators Advancing College, Career and Citizenship readiness Higher, part of Barresi’s overall C3 Plan, which will ensure each Oklahoma student graduates college, career and citizen ready.
The amount of the awards was based on the total number of certified employees in both the Reward School and the Priority School.
State Department of Education staff will monitor grant administration and mentoring activities. The grant period is from this February to June 2014. Funds can be used for celebration of excellence activities at the Reward School and partnership activities that are likely to benefit both the Reward School and the Priority School.
“Grantees submitted applications describing ways they would partner with Priority Schools,” Assistant State Superintendent of Educational Support Kerri White said. “Partnerships could also include other entities such as higher education institutions, Career Tech centers, parent organizations, businesses or other community groups. Examples of partnership activities were flipping classrooms, sharing resources and training for digital learning, and student-led task forces focused on engagement and achievement.”
Tricia Pemberton, communications specialist with the OSDE said as part of the application for the grant, administrators included how they anticipated using the funds.
“From professional development for teachers to the purchase of iPads for learning, to mobile classrooms and joint staff retreats, Reward Schools presented a variety of ways they will use to help their Priority School,” Pemberton said.
The announcement of the Reward Schools was made at the State School Board meeting held Thursday in Howe. Schools were notified on Friday, Pemberton said.