The Education Innovator #9
Volume II
Archived Information

The Education Innovator
 March 8, 2004 • Number 9
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What's inside...
Project GRAD
What's New
The U.S. Department of Education announces the start of the State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grants Program competition; proposed regulation would make it easier for parents to choose same-sex schools; updates for teachers are available from; upgrade of Virginia's charter school law passes Virginia Senate Education Committee; and Edison Schools launches "Faces of Achievement" in Education Week.
Innovations in the News
South Carolina teachers use new assessment tool to improve students' classroom performance; plus information on charter schools, parent involvement; achievement gap; and women's history.

Project GRAD: Helping Students and Teachers Close the Achievement Gap in the Nation's Lowest-Performing Schools
Shockingly, the average 12th grade African-American student is reading and doing math at approxiamately the same level as the average 8th grade white or Asian student. Hispanic students are not faring much better. This four-year learning gap leaves African-American and Hispanic students at a great disadvantage when they enter postsecondary programs, where they obtain college degrees at half the rate of white or Asian students.

Enter Project GRAD (Graduation Really Achieves Dreams), a K-16 school reform program of professional development, classroom management, and social services with the goal of increasing high school graduation rates and preparing graduates to be successful in college. Founded by former Tenneco CEO James Ketelsen, Project GRAD's roots go back to1988 with a Tenneco-funded, four-year college scholarship program for Davis High School students in Houston. At the time, Davis was Houston's lowest-performing high school.

The scholarship program was straightforward: students were told that if they graduated from high school with good marks and sustained their academic performance in college, they were guaranteed a full ride.

The program was a success: by 1991 the number of Davis students heading for college had quadrupled. However, Ketelsen wanted a program that could have an even greater impact on the success rates of low-performing schools, so he developed a program that started with kindergarten and continued reforming the entire system.

Since its inception Project GRAD has incorporated specific program components aimed at improving student achievement and academic success in a cost-effective way. The Project GRAD program includes professional development for teachers, administrators and parents, who learn to implement strategies to teach math, reading, and language arts, and strategies to effectively manage the classroom. In addition, Project GRAD brings social services to schools and additional resources to teachers.

The results? The project has contracted with Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation to conduct a five-year evaluation of the program. Begun in 2000, preliminary data from the study show that "by the end of two to three years of implementation, ... Project GRAD produces significant evidence of measurable impact on student achievement."

At the high school level, Project GRAD's academic program focuses on three related elements: ensuring ninth grade readiness; supporting all students to complete their ninth grade year; and promoting academic rigor from grades 9 to 12, with an emphasis on pre-AP and AP coursework. Beyond the academic work, at the center of the high school effort is the guarantee of a college scholarship for all students who qualify--a continuation of the Tenneco scholarship legacy.

To maximize the number of students who qualify for the scholarship and go on to enter college, the program works to ensure that students have a rich curriculum experience, obtain scholarship information, and sign a contract laying out what is required for them to receive the scholarship (e.g., graduate from high school in four years, complete college prep coursework, graduate with at least a 2.5 GPA, and attend summer institutes at participating colleges). In addition to the work surrounding the scholarship, Project GRAD continues the classroom management and social service components that were available in elementary and middle school.

Project GRAD has expanded rapidly and now serves 217 schools and more than 135,000 students nationwide. The program has been replicated in Akron, Atlanta, Brownsville (TX), Cincinnati, Columbus, Kenai Peninsula (AK), Knoxville, Lorain (OH), Los Angeles, Newark, and Roosevelt (NY).

Project GRAD has received grants from the U.S. Department of Education, including a recent grant from OII's Advanced Placement Incentives program.

Note: The featured innovation is a description of one example of a school management program. The program is innovative and interesting but does not necessarily have evidence of general effectiveness from rigorous evaluation. The information provided should not be regarded as an endorsement.


What's New
Funding Opportunity
The U.S. Department of Education announced the start of the State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grants Program competition. The program, run by OII, is designed to encourage states to develop and expand per-pupil facilities aid programs and to share in the costs related to the management and operation of charter schools. (March 4)

Department to Provide More Educational Options for Parents
Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced a proposed regulation that would make it easier for parents to choose same-sex classes and schools, including same-sex charter schools, for their children. The proposal would amend the regulations under Title IX. The public is taking public comments on the proposed regulation for 45 days. (March 3)

Electronic Information Updates for Teachers
The U. S. Department of Education will be sending out electronic information updates specifically designed for classroom teachers. Those who would like to receive the updates can send their email addresses to Please spread the word. (March 4)

Virginia's Charter School Excellence and Accountability Act
Virginia's Charter School Excellence and Accountability Act, which would upgrade Virginia's charter school law, passed the Virginia Senate Education Committee by a vote of 13-2. The next stop for the proposed Act, which has bipartisan support in the state's General Assembly, is with the full Senate. (March 4)

Edison Schools
Edison Schools will launch the "Faces of Achievement" campaign in Education Week. This communication effort will feature the school districts and charter boards Edison works with as the "heroes" of education success. (March 2)

Reminder: Grant Application Deadlines
  • Magnet Schools Assistance, March 15
  • Excellence in Economic Education, April 14
  • State Charter School Facilities Incentive, July 1

Innovations in the News

In South Carolina teachers are using new assessment tools to improve students' classroom performance and test scores. The district believes that this new testing method, called Data Driven Instructional Decision Making, will help reduce the achievement gap between white students and minority students, low-income students and students with limited English proficiency. [More-Island Packet] (March 1)

Achievement Gap
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell declared that Pennsylvania has a long way to go to close the statewide achievement gap between black and white students. Rendell stressed the importance of education during his speech at a Black History Month celebration with 350 high school students from Pittsburgh. [More-Post Gazette] (March 4)

Charter Schools
Alum Rock Union Elementary School District's (CA) trustees unanimously approved its first charter school, KIPP Heartwood Academy. More than 90 families have expressed an interest in this new school, and leaders of the teachers union have spoken favorably of the proposal. [More-San Jose Mercury] (Feb. 27)

Students from Hernando's Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Technology recently visited students at Citrus County Academy of Environmental Science (FL). This is the first step in a new school exchange program that is set to partner a charter middle school with a charter high school. [More-St. Petersburg Times] (Feb. 28)

In Tennessee, a new plan would expand the pool of students eligible to enroll in charter schools, no matter which school they currently attend. Right now, these independent public schools are allowed to accept students only from those regular public schools that are not making the grade. [More-Tennessean] (March 2)

Parent Involvement
The Giles County (TN) school system encourages community involvement in education and is explaining two aspects of No Child Left Behind-- supplemental educational services and parental involvement--enthusiastically to the community. Supplemental services are offered before and after school and in the summer. The parental involvement policy is explained in the Board of Education's policy manual. [More-GilesToday] (March 3)

Women' s History
Estelle Reel was the first woman in the nation to be elected to a statewide office--Superintendent of Public Instruction in Wyoming in 1895. She eventually earned a federal appointment from President William McKinley. Studying her life is part of Wyoming's celebration of Women's History Month. [More-Star Tribune] (Feb. 29)

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Last Modified: 06/28/2011