By Ashli Sims and NewsOn6.com,
TULSA, OK -- The state Board of Education just approved $20 million new dollars for six Tulsa Public Schools. Two middle schools and four high schools received school improvement grants funded by the federal government.
It's not often that being on the bottom of the list pays off, but this money will mean those who need it the most will get more time in class and better trained teachers.
Last year, Clinton Middle School underwent a physical transformation, moving into a brand new building.
This fall they'll be transforming on the inside.
"We are in a position where we do need the assistance," said Shelly Holman, Clinton Middle School principal. "Our students need academic assistance, and this is going to help us."
Clinton Middle School has made the federal needs improvement list four out of the last six years. Now instead of just labeling it low-performing, the federal government is giving the school $3.7 million over the next three years to get off that list.
"This could really be transformative to urban districts," State Superintendent Sandy Garrett said during a Wednesday news conference announcing the grants.
The School Improvement Grants are targeted to specific school sites within a district to provide adequate resources to improve student performance at the sites.
"It's something that we need. And it's something that schools that are working as hard as they possibly can absolutely need to make the kinds of difference that they expect to make," said Associate Superintendent Kevin Burr.
Shelly Hickman with the state Department of Education told the News On 6 the new federal program targets state schools who are the most at risk.
She says the feds have identified Title 1 schools that are persistently low performing in math and science. Several Tulsa schools made that list, and that allowed the TPS to apply for these school improvement grants.
Hickman says this federal grant money is over and above what Title 1 schools are getting now. She says these grants come with "big strings" attached.
Students will spend more time in class; teachers will spend more time in training and more time working together to improve student test scores. Schools must establish three-year goals for student achievements and report on the results.
"That's huge," Associated Superintendent Kevin Burr said. "We've known for a long time that just having the amount of time to get people together to talk about instruction is going to pay terrific dividends. This is really a big deal."
The grant money will pay teachers for the extra time they'll be required to work. It also will fund a pay for performance system that will be put in place in 2011.
"All along we've brought our staff on board, and they're excited," Clinton Middle School Principal Shelly Holman said. "They want as much as we do for the kids to raise those test scores and be successful."
Tulsa has had several schools on the needs improvement list for years. Webster High School applied for one of these grants, but did not receive it.