Harvest funds schools' grant

March 29, 2009

The Harvest Foundation has announced a one-year, $897,000 grant for area school systems.

Henry County schools will get $510,000; Martinsville schools will receive $160,000; and the Carlisle School will get $50,000, according to Angela Logan, program officer for Harvest. The grant is a continuation of the $5 million K-12 Education Initiative awarded in 2003 to improve K-12 school education through investing in professional development, according to a news release. Logan said the one-year grant was done as a bridge to complete the progress the schools have made in the past five years. After that, they will consider how to proceed, she added.

Representatives from each district recently reported the progress of the K-12 Education Initiative to The Harvest Foundation Board of Directors. School officials also detailed their future plans for teacher development and student achievement. Presenters included school officials, parents and students, including a fourth-grader, fifth-grader, eighth-grader and college freshman.

Also, data collected by an evaluator with more than 30 years of experience in K-12 education was shared. This data supports the fact that the initiative has been a resounding success, the release stated. Students improved in reading and math, which was the focus of the grants, the release added. The most dramatic improvements occurred among students with learning abilities and among black students, it added.

“We are actively investing in teachers and creating an environment that encourages all children to succeed,” said Allyson Rothrock, executive director of Harvest. “One purpose of the initiative has been to give teachers and administrators a chance to experience world-class professional development. When our board of directors started the project five years ago, we initially talked about bricks-and-mortar issues and computer upgrades. We quickly realized that the most meaningful experiences in schools aren’t about desks or supplies, but teachers. In fact, research consistently shows nothing impacts student achievement more than highly qualified teachers. That’s why we’ve focused on how teachers teach.”

The initiative has allowed school systems broad latitude in developing projects and programs best suited to their students’ needs, according to the release. The schools focused on three specific programs, and will continue them with the latest grant, Logan said:

• Differentiated instruction in Henry County Schools. Differentiated instruction encourages educators to use a variety of teaching methods to meet all students’ needs.

• Effective practices for increasing achievement in Martinsville Schools. The schools are working to implement the Effective Schools research to improve math and reading skills for students in all grades. It also provides strategies to involve parents and the community.

• Curriculum and integrated differentiated education at Carlisle School. Carlisle is emphasizing student achievement through intense curriculum development. Teachers are using the practices of differentiated instruction with the International Baccalaureate program as they expand it to the elementary and middle school years.

Those who attended the presentation to Harvest noted the passion and appreciation the speakers felt about receiving the grant money in a difficult economy with rampant cutbacks. “It was great to hear, especially what the students and parents had to say about the role this initiative has played in their lives,” said Logan.

Paul B. Toms Jr., president of the Harvest Board of Directors, agreed. “The Harvest Foundation was delighted to hear about the work being done to enhance our area schools and to give our children the advantages that come with an outstanding education. Our teachers and administrators have a huge impact on the future of our community. We are grateful for their efforts,” he said.

Since its inception in 2002, The Harvest Foundation has awarded more than $70 million through 141 grants, including those involved in the K-12th Grade Education Initiative. The foundation was created in 2002 from the proceeds of the sale of the Memorial Hospital of Martinsville/Henry County. Its mission is to provide grants for programs that address local challenges in health, education and community vitality.



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