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1/23/2013 3:00:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Gates Foundation offers school grants
Kacie Thrift
Staff Writer



Recently, the Community Foundation of NCW received $340,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide educational support for schools in Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties.

The Community Foundation of NCW (CFNCW) and Chelan-Douglas United Way have partnered to develop the Ending Poverty through Education initiative. This initiative focuses on improving K-12 reading levels and increasing student engagement in school in the three counties.

Executive Director of CFNCW, Beth Stipe, said in 2007, CFNCW created a website called Chelan-Douglas Trends. The website shows 133 quality of life indicators for the counties CFNCW supports.

"On this website we can see grade rates and reading skills are behind where we think they should be," Stipe said. "To pick a project that incorporates all counties is usually pretty hard but this was a problem all the communities had in common.

Through the grant from the Gates Foundation, CFNCW and Untied Way of Chelan-Douglas Counties will be working with Intermountain AmeriCorps to build a reading program. This reading program will work to achieve 90 percent of students reading at grade level in 15 of the region's low-income elementary schools.

Stipe said, out of 35 elementary schools in the three counties, 29 have more than 50 percent of their students on the free and reduced lunch program and 25 schools have less than 70 percent reading at grade level.

The money from the grant will be split into two projects in an effort to increase the amount of students reading at grade level.

The first project is the elementary reading component. Through the partnership with Intermountain AmeriCorps, 15 Reading Corps volunteers will be dispatched to different schools to help kids who struggle reading at grade level. Stipe said requests for proposals will be schools with the greatest needs. Fifteen schools will be chosen for the program.

Each school will then receive one Reading Corps volunteer that will work with students over the next four years to achieve the reading goal.

"For the Reading Corps program, we are looking for schools who have strong leadership around this issue at getting kids to read at grade level," Stipe said. "We want everyone in the building committed to reading at grade level by fourth grade."

The grant will also provide funds for CFNCW's new annual grant program, "Classrooms Can!" This program will grant $1,000 to 50 K-12 teachers in North Central Washington for entrepreneurial projects in math and science, technology, arts education, literacy, or obesity prevention.

"We know we have truancy problems in schools. If kids aren't coming in to school, it's hard for them to succeed," Stipe said. "With this money, we want to provide teachers with the ability to make school exciting. We want kids to get up every morning and say I can't miss school today because we are doing something."

For the "Classrooms Can!" grant, CFNCW is putting together selection committees from business leaders and community members in the three counties to select which teachers will be awarded the $1,000 grant. Stipe said the best proposals will focus on hands on projects and entrepreneurship. CFNCW will be donating $26,000 of their money to continue this program each year.

These programs were funded by the Gates Foundation because of their innovation in providing educational opportunities and increased student engagement in low-income schools. According to a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Stipe said children who aren't reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times as likely to drop out of high school.

"We are in the process of trying to build a bigger project. In the next four years, we want to be able to engage community in helping kids succeed in reading. We want to see this expand outside of the classroom into homes, libraries after school programs, where volunteers go and read to kids," Stipe said. "We are hoping to see everyone step up and make this project work."

Applications for "Classrooms Can!" grants will be available in February and due in April. Awards for the grants will me made at the end of the school year with project implementation for the 2013-2014 academic year. Applications for the Reading Corps project will be available in March.

Kacie Thrift may be reached at 782-3781 or reporter@cashmerevalleyrecord.com.



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