Award-Winning Schools: Best practices from grant-winning districts
By Ellen Ullman
In 2009, the Web site Grant Wrangler
(www.grantwrangler.com) listed more
than $166 million in grants and awards
for K–12 schools and the people who
work in them. While some foundations
did have to cut back on their amounts
or get out of the grant-giving business
altogether, new grantors came on
board and Web site traffic continued
to increase. Not too surprisingly, Grant
Wrangler’s annual subscriber survey
showed that 54 percent of grant seekers
sought technology funding last
year. Learn how four districts turned
their tech wishes into reality.
NAPERVILLE NORTH HIGH
SCHOOL, NAPERVILLE, IL
|At Naperville North High School’s Celebration
event, guests—including the mayor of Naperville,
George Pradel (bottom)—watched students using
their new technology.
GRANT & AMOUNT AWARDED: HP
Innovations in Education; $265,000
WHAT THEY ARE DOING WITH THE
GRANT: The goals of the district’s
Technology Enabled Education through
Innovative Technology (TEE IT up!)
Program are to teach technology skills
and teamwork and to help students
learn about high-tech opportunities. The
school received HP tablet PCs, printers,
mobile workstations, mini notebooks, and graphing calculators. Teachers were given money to
attend conferences. Students have teamed up with mentors
from local companies and universities to tackle real-life problems
pertaining to math, engineering, and science.
WHY THEY THINK THEY WON: Naperville had packaged the
idea for an earlier grant application. The HP grant was a good
fit, and the curriculum director knew that the school could act
on it immediately. “We had a very thoughtful plan for what we
wanted to do and how we would use the technology,” says
Julie Carlsen, grants coordinator.
HOW LONG IT TOOK TO GET THE MONEY: Naperville sent in
the application in April, it learned the result in May, and it
received the equipment in July. The teachers also went to an
HP event over the summer.
WHAT THEY’LL DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME: Not much,
according to Carlsen. The school had put a lot of work into the
proposal and was very prepared.
JEFFERSON COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, LOUISVILLE, KY
GRANT AND AMOUNT AWARDED: GE Foundation’s
Developing Futures in Education Grant; $35 million
WHAT THEY ARE DOING WITH THE GRANT: Improving student
achievement through inquiry-based instruction. With
the money, the district bought a new math curriculum as
well as hands-on science modules and intervention programs.
It also pays for math and science resource teachers
to provide embedded professional development.
WHY THEY THINK THEY WON: Jefferson County already had
a lot of the system processes in place, such as the literacy initiative
“Everyone Reads,” so GE felt that the district was ready
to go to implementation.
HOW LONG IT TOOK TO GET THE MONEY: Some was given immediately, and the district receives $5 million
WHAT THEY’LL DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME: “Our challenge,
and we’re doing a fine job at it, is trying to be systemic
across a large district,” says Sharon Shrout, director of instructional
technology. “We must make sure that one department’s
work is supporting another department, that we are staying
aligned with these initiatives, and everyone is moving together
to do the same work for our students.”
WARREN TECH HIGH SCHOOL, LAKEWOOD, CO
|Warren Tech students learn to use such cutting-edge technology as tablet
PCs to solve problems and develop 21st-century skills.
GRANT & AMOUNT AWARDED: HP Innovations in Education
Grant; $265,000 in HP products and professional development
WHAT THEY ARE DOING WITH THE GRANT: To prepare students
for the changing workplace, the school provides training
in such skills as problem solving and workplace ethics.
Teachers use the products to help students make connections
between the technology in their classes and technology in the
real world: Fire-science students use the technology in their
practical work; dental students use it for note taking and case
management; and health-science students use it for research.
WHY THEY THINK THEY WON: “I think it’s because we
are on the cutting edge of using technology, applying it
to real life, and allowing students to access it,” says Joe
Shaw, principal. “We were already doing some of this
work; the grant has given us the ability to go even further.”
HOW LONG IT TOOK TO GET THE MONEY: HP awarded the
grant in April 2009, and the equipment was in the building
before July 1.
WHAT THEY’LL DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME: The school is
looking at more of the STEM piece, Shaw says. “We’re working
with two STEM academies next year. We see that as a path to
go down with our programs.”
ILLINOIS MATHEMATICS & SCIENCE ACADEMY
(IMSA), AURORA, IL
GRANT & AMOUNT AWARDED: 2009 Intel Schools of
Distinction Star Innovator Award; $27,500 from the Intel
Foundation and $250,000 worth of additional products and
services from sponsors
WHAT THEY ARE DOING WITH THE GRANT: IMSA established
an innovation mini-grant program. Some of the
approved faculty and staff projects are interactive software
for Mandarin Chinese classes, teaching scientific inquiry at
the middle school, career Webinars, advanced use of technology
in wellness-learning experiences, and streamingvideo
WHY THEY THINK THEY WON: Intel sponsors this award to
honor schools for implementing innovative mathematics and
science programs and serving as models for other schools.
IMSA was selected because of its comprehensive program,
which incorporated innovative and effective use of technology,
engaging parents and the community in students’ education,
fostering professional development and teamwork, and consistently
achieving high academic standards.
HOW LONG IT TOOK TO GET THE MONEY: The district
received the funds right after the award ceremony, in
WHAT THEY’LL DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME: “We will
continue to use our curiosities, energies, and resources to
develop innovative strategies and practices in science,
mathematics, and technology applications for education to
apply for new grants,” says Brenda Buschbacher, coordinator
of public information.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT GRANT
Don’t just go for the big money or a grant that you’ll build a
program around. Pick one that is truly a match for your school.
MAKE IT MEMORABLE
Schools that win make an impression. Let them see how you
will transform the school. Make it vivid; make it stand out in an
authentic way. Make the judges cry if that’s what it takes.
BE A GRANT REVIEWER
If you can review grants for someone, such as the mayor’s
office, you will quickly learn what makes applications stand
ASK AN OUTSIDER TO DO
You can’t rely on the reviewer’s having the same level of tech
knowledge as you or being able to piece together what you’re
saying. One big mistake grant writers make is thinking “I
explained that five pages ago, so I don’t need to say it again.”
Don’t be afraid of appearing to repeat yourself; you want to
be clear and thorough.
REPRESENT YOUR NEEDS ACCURATELY
In a public grant, you have to say where your failures are or
you won’t seem to have a need for the money. Your goal is to
look needy without looking like the black hole of neediness.
Describe the need, what you have already done, and what this
money will allow you to do.
It sounds obvious, but you have to give yourself time to bring
in all the appropriate partners and consider the budget. If
there are any matching requirements, you’ll need time to find
the right match.
READ THE DIRECTIONS CAREFULLY
Know who has to sign off on everything before you start so
you’ll know if they’ll need time to do this. Pay attention to
what’s required and to who must do it. No one wants to lose
because of a technicality.
Tips provided by Karen Greenwood Henke, managing director
of Nimble Press and founder of Grant Wrangler
(www.grantwrangler.com); Jan Mitchell Johnson, founder and
CEO of Grantsformation, Inc. (www.grantsformation.com); and
Christine Klein, principal of Klein Consulting.