News&Notes from the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District
September 17, 2008
Residents of our school district may not be aware of a $700,000 Cowell Grant that was written and secured by a local team of Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District staff, board members and community leaders. The grants formal title is: Responding to the Need for a Change in Culture in the Tahoe Truckee region. The intent of the grant is to secure funding to better serve our English Language Learner students. The funds go toward implementing professional learning communities based on a structured collaborative inquiry model to improve student performance. Research indicates that schools and districts that embrace professional learning communities have a dramatic increase in student performance for all groups. There are two pieces of the grant, a community piece and a school piece. The grant aims to close the gaps that exist in our communities. One of the obvious disparities is the achievement gap which exists between the lower socio-economic and disadvantaged members of our community and those who can be categorized into a higher economic bracket of the population.Based on data collected from the Truckee and North Shore communities, it was determined that our educational approach with the disadvantaged subgroup, while well intentioned, was not achieving the desired results.The Cowell Grant was secured based on the fact that we are one region. However, because of past practice and geographic isolation efforts are not always coordinated between school sites. One piece of the grant helps to nurture community liaisons between the North Lake Tahoe communities and Truckee. This segment is devoted to working with teachers to identify students and their families who need additional support and connect them to available resources and services.Furthermore, the Cowell Grant provides training for community leaders, school department heads, grade level teacher leaders, principals and academic coaches who are essentially teachers with specialized training who work directly with teachers and students to improve academic success. Research indicates that positive change is best carried out when individuals responsible for implementing change create small learning communities at each school. The intention is to allow teachers to work collaboratively on improving student achievement.The goal of the Cowell Grant, which is renewable, is to have TTUSD board members, teachers, instructional leaders and community liaisons work as collaborative members of a professional learning community to improve the learning for every student and close any achievement gaps that might exist. The Cowell Grant supports a cutting edge and forward-thinking approach to help develop the whole child. The ultimate goal is to have these members of our community reach their potential and successfully graduate with every door and opportunity open to them, whether that be university, technical school, or work to essentially have them ready for the world.The S.H. Cowell Foundation has in fact funded grants, benefiting a number of other community agencies including the Community Collaborative, the Kings Beach Family Resource Center, the Truckee Family Resource Center and the Boys and Girls Club.