Grants touch teachers and students in Tulare, Fresno, Central school districts

A new grant unites a school district, an education organization and Fresno Pacific University to help teachers teach and students learn about science and language arts.

The California Post-Secondary Education Commission Grant has been approved for $282,839 for one year. FPU, the Tulare City School District and the K-12 Alliance, a non-profit group that does professional development for teachers, will work together on a project called BLASTT (Bringing Language Arts and Sciences Together in Tulare).

BLASTT is a program for 36 Tulare teachers in grades three-six. Planning started in September 2010. “Fresno Pacific’s main job will be a weeklong workshop for teachers in Tulare,” said Dave Youngs, mathematics education program director at FPU. Youngs and Steve Pauls, chemistry faculty and grant project director, will lead the summer workshop and Youngs will follow-up with the teachers during the school year. Some of those teachers will participate in a statewide training by the K-12 Alliance, and then train other Tulare teachers.

The grant is federally funded and administered by the state commission. About 75 percent of the funds will go to Tulare schools and the K-12 Alliance. FPU will use the other 25 percent to cover training and research. The grant could be funded up to four years, which would bring the total to $958,000. “Contingent on us achieving their goals, they will approve one year at a time,” Youngs said.

Other grants in Fresno, Central

FPU’s math education program also has three CaMSP (California Math-Science Partnership) grants, also federally funded and state-administered. California State University, Fresno, is a partner in two of the grants.

Each grant is for three years, and all involve training math teachers in grades three through Algebra 1. “This is working with teachers in hopes of increasing test scores and teaching and learning,” Youngs said. Each project includes about 60 hours contact between FPU professors and district teachers, plus additional follow-up. “I’m in the classes observing,” Youngs said.

The largest grant, Creating Algebraic Thinkers (CAT), started this summer with the Fresno County Office of Education and involves 100 teachers. The CAT grant is for $1 million a year for three years.

The other two grants, The Fresno Mathematics Academy and Expert TeachersxExplicit Math Instruction=Exemplary Student Achievement, are in their second year. The first is with Fresno Unified School District and involves about 80 teachers. The second, with Central Unified School District, involves 35 teachers. The FUSD grant is for $1 million per year and the CUSD grant is for $350,000 per year.

Though some teachers—50 in the case of the Fresno County grant—choose to get master’s degrees at FPU, the major benefit of grants like these is to the education of teachers and students, not the finances of the university. “The lion’s share of the money goes to the district and or the teachers,” Youngs said.