By LANCE COHEN
Capital News Service
LANSING — Nearly $4.5 million in federal funding will be provided to 72 Michigan school districts to increase academic performance.
Districts plan to use this money to address large scale problems regarding teacher retention and the recruitment and hiring of new teachers, said David Crim, a communication consultant for the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest union of school personnel.
“There is a historic number of teachers leaving the profession in the first five years and teaching colleges and universities across the state are producing 50 percent less graduates than 10 years ago,” Crim said.
School districts also plan to use money from this grant to fund professional development training for administrators and teachers, according to Rebekah Emmerling, a manager for the educator evaluation unit for the Department of Education.
The 72 grant-receiving districts were chosen in three separate rounds from a pool of 182 applicants and the first round of 12 school districts were academically struggling partnership districts, Emmerling said.
These partnership districts work with the state to set academic growth goals to avoid closing failing schools and receive additional resources to improve school performance, Emmerling said.
Rounds 2 and 3 selected 60 districts based on need and plans to use the money.
“We were surprised to see how many excellent applications we received from districts throughout the state,” Emmerling said.“More grant money was allocated to these 60 other school districts to help them achieve increased academic achievement.”
Crim said the grant provides districts with a lot of leeway and freedom to help reach their own goals.,
“We have seen in the past that most education grants from the federal or state governments have too many strings attached which limit creativity by districts,” Crim said. “This grant allows districts to determine what they need and it puts control back into the hands of the people on the local level.”
Oscoda Area Schools will receive $20,000 under the program, said Charlie Negro, the director of categorical funding for the district.
“Both of our schools will be receiving $10,000 each that will go to fund professional development programs for our administrators and teachers,” Negro said. “The members of our school leadership team — made up of the principal, assistant principal and a select few teachers — will attend a three-day training session held by the Institute for Excellence in Education.”
Professional development can make a big difference in the classroom in content learning and school environment, Negro said.
“Students are able to learn best in a climate that supports their learning and makes them feel comfortable,” Negro said. “These professional development trainings help administrators and teachers make this a reality.”
“This grant is a great step in the right direction but we need to keep the funding sustainable and set additional dollars aside to continue funding professional development programming in the future,” Negro said.