Mars Hill nursing school receives $2 million grant to increase diversity – Asheville Citizen

MARS HILL – Mars Hill University has been awarded a federal grant of up to $2 million over the next four years to help train Western North Carolina nurses.

The Nursing Workforce Diversity grant will provide $500,000 for Mars Hill in the fiscal year that begins July 1 and is expected to be renewed for three more years.

The goal of the Nursing Workforce Diversity program, administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is to increase access to nursing education for students from backgrounds that are underrepresented among the current nursing workforce.

For Mars Hill, “that dovetails perfectly with the very reason the university began its nursing programs,” according to a press release from the university, which notes that the Judge-McRae School of Nursing was established to serve the Western North Carolina region and disadvantaged regions throughout North Carolina.

The grant gives Mars Hill an opportunity, according to the university, “to increase the number of nursing graduates who are diverse, representative of their communities, and skilled in serving disadvantaged communities with cultural sensitivity and compassionate care.”

“We are extremely grateful for the generous award of the Health Resources and Services Administration Nursing Workforce Diversity grant,” said Cathy Franklin-Griffin, professor of nursing and dean of the Judge-McRae School of Nursing. “This grant provides … the youngest school of nursing in western North Carolina … with resources to enhance successful inclusiveness in our pre-nursing and nursing student populations.”

Mars Hill University will use the grant money to hire specialists and mentors with the skills to recruit students of diverse backgrounds into the nursing program and to help those students develop the skills necessary to succeed and graduate. But the bulk of the money will go to new scholarships awarded to 50 students in the pre-licensure bachelor of science in nursing program and 25 students in the registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing program.

“The overarching goal of the initiative is to provide a more diverse and inclusive nursing workforce to the populations of the largely disadvantaged, health care underserved and economically challenged counties of rural Western North Carolina and throughout the state,” accoding to the university.

“We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services saw the merit in our proposal, and I am proud of the university’s nursing faculty and advancement staff for the high quality proposal,” said Mars Hill University President Dan Lunsford. “This grant will enhance the capacity to provide the high quality nursing education to more people across Western North Carolina, which, in turn, will enhance the medical care of citizens of the region.”

Franklin-Griffin said the grant will help enable the university’s nursing graduates to take to their local communities the foundations of nursing education excellence at Mars Hill University: courageous advocacy, ethical leadership, cultural competence, health promotion and community involvement.

“This is definitely a win-win situation for all involved now and seeds a rich harvest of future nursing graduates and healthier communities,” she said.

She also acknowledged the efforts of the university’s fundraising office, particularly those of foundations engagement and prospect research director Stacey Sparks, who spearheaded the grant application process.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

To learn more, visit

ACE Institute students earn high school diploma and college degree

The Advanced College Enrollment Institute at Gadsden State Community College permits eligible high school students to dual enroll in college courses and high school classes. Students can even earn a high school diploma and college degree around the same time. Nathan Boatwright and Alyssa Winkles are two of those students.


“I knew the ACE Institute would help me further my education faster than most students my age,” said Winkles, 18. “I was so excited about going to Gadsden State and the ACE Institute gave me the opportunity to do that.”


Having a fast track to a career is the reason Boatwright enrolled in the ACE Institute.


“I was just ready to grow up,” he said. “I wanted to get everything done as fast as I could so I could start working.”


ACE Institute classes are offered online or in a traditional classroom at one of Gadsden State’s campuses or at the student’s high school. General education courses and career technical courses are offered.  Boatwright, an 18-year-old Hokes Bluff native, enrolled in the welding program at Gadsden State’s East Broad Campus.

Nathan Boatwright stands next to the truck he retrofitted with tools and equipment. A recent Hokes Bluff High School and
Gadsden State Community College graduate, Boatwright uses the truck as a mobile welding service.

“It’s cool to me that you can weld two pieces of metal together,” he said. “Plus, it’s a high-demand job so I know it won’t be hard for me to secure employment.”


He is one of 300 students who earned ACE Institute scholarships for the 2016-17 academic year. Students who are interested in certain career technical programs identified as high-wage, high-demand may qualify for the scholarship awarded to Boatwright. Those scholarships are available in the following programs: air conditioning and refrigeration, automotive body repair, automotive manufacturing technology, automotive service technology, carpentry, civil engineering technology, computer science, drafting design technology, diesel mechanics, electronic engineering technology, electrical technology, emergency medical technology, health information technology, industrial maintenance technology, mechanical design technology, machine tool technology, office administration, paralegal/legal assistant and welding.


Boatwright completed four semesters in welding and a semester in blueprint during his time in the ACE Institute. In May, he earned his associate degree in welding before he got his diploma at Hokes Bluff High School. Now he is working at his father’s heavy equipment business and has even started his own mobile welding service. The service is made possible thanks to a 2007 Ford F-250 truck retrofitted with the tools and equipment he needs. He and a friend built and painted the bed of the truck and installed toolboxes, which saved him over $5,000. They also found and installed an old electric welder on the back of the work truck.


“It is a 1978 Lincoln with an electric ignition and carburetor, and it had only been used nine hours,” Boatwright said. “We painted it and installed it on the truck so I can have all my tools and supplies right there when I need them.”


The mobile welding service is convenient for those using heavy equipment.


“My clients will call me and I’ll go out in the field and fix the equipment right there on the spot,” he said.


Though he has already embarked on a career with great potential, he has plans to take his trade on the road.


“I want to travel and work on the pipeline or an oil rig as an offshore welder,” he said. “It has good pay and good retirement.”


ACE Institute students, like Winkles, can also take general education courses. The Centre native will earn her Associate of Science degree following the summer semester, just four months after completing requirements for her high school diploma. She has been accepted into the nursing program at Jacksonville State University and will start classes in the fall.


A homeschool student, Winkles enrolled in an ACE Institute online course the summer prior to her junior year. She has since attended class at Gadsden State Cherokee and has been a full-time ACE Institute student for the past three semesters. Until recently, she also worked 26 hours a week at a veterinary clinic and still maintained a grade point average that earned her a spot on the Dean’s List.


“I wouldn’t say it’s easy to work and go to school but it doesn’t have to be difficult,” she said. “It takes responsibility and time. You just have to manage your priorities.”


Both Boatwright and Winkles agreed that Gadsden State instructors have been instrumental in their success to juggle work, high school and college courses.

Alyssa Winkles earned her high school diploma in the spring and will
graduate with an associate degree from Gadsden State in August.
She accomplished the feat by attending college classes through the ACE Institute,
Gadsden State’s dual enrollment program.


“Darren McCrary and Frank Miller are great instructors,” Boatwright said of the two men who taught his welding courses. “They helped me so much. They taught me what to do and what not to do. They were very strict about me learning the process. They were tough but encouraging. They make sure we are expert welders when we leave their class.”


Barbara Dorsett is the instructor who made the biggest impact on Winkles.


“She has always been so helpful,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for a better chemistry teacher. She has a great heart when it comes to helping students. She always wants to see us succeed.”


In the end, Winkles is happy she made the decision to enroll in the ACE Institute, and she encourages other sophomores, juniors and seniors with at least a 2.5 GPA to enroll.

“Earning a high school diploma and college credits at the same time is achievable,” she said. “Don’t give up. Be persistent. No matter how old you are, you can do it. Set your mind to it and succeed.”


For more information on the ACE Institute, visit

Evaluation finds Massena Central School special education understaffed, but doing a good job


MASSENA — A recent evaluation found that the Massena Central special education program is doing a good job with the students who need it, but it’s understaffed, according to Superintendent Pat Brady.

He said a company called Futures Education discussed their findings with the Board of Education on Thursday.

“They found the district has a good culture around our special education program to support students, the general education teacher and special education teachers are for the most part collaborating well … and do a good job educating parents,” Brady said. “They also concluded in their, and they had examined many school across the state as well as across the country … they determined our program is understaffed at a time when numbers of students identified as needing special education is on the rise.

“They also felt we need to continue to improve upon our response to intervention program … designed to provide support to students in ELA and math beginning in the primary graders. Part of that effort is to lower the number of students being referred to special education … work to build up their skills … they would have what they need already.”

Brady said the board wrote in two additional special education positions in the 2017-18 budget, but they’re having trouble hiring them.

“Most schools in the North Country and throughout much of the state are finding it difficult to hire special education teachers because they are in limited supply. We are in fact looking for two at this point,” Brady said.

He said the board welcomed the Futures Education report.

“When you have a major program like this, it’s important we examine it from time to time and when you bring in an outside perspective of people who have been in the field as special education teachers, directors of special education, superintendents … I think it was a valuable exercise and we will use their recommendations as we set up our goals over the next couple of years,” he said. “Our special education program impacts a fifth of our students, and approximately one fifth of our school budget.”

The report can be read at

A presentation shown at the June 15 board meeting is at


School choice programs pay off for donors

Dibye Bass’ 12-year-old son, like thousands of children, has benefitted from a school choice program championed by the Trump administration that offers big-money donors tax breaks which critics say are too generous.

Bass’ son was bullied in a Virginia public school and a scholarship tax credit program was his way out and into a private school that the single mother said has made a difference in her son’s life. Regardless of questions raised about the way the programs are financed, she said she is grateful.

“I see it as something that encourages you to give more. Not just for a tax break but because you’re doing something good,” she said.

But here’s what’s unusual, if not controversial, about the scholarship programs: Wealthy donors can potentially “profit” from their contributions through extensive tax benefits that can drain money from state treasuries which fund public services — including public schools.

The programs are available in 17 states and are being considered by legislators in several others. They are praised by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos — a longtime school choice advocate — and are the focus of two congressional bills that seek to create a federal version of the program.

All the programs basically work this way: Individuals and businesses make cash or stock donations to scholarship granting organizations. The organizations award scholarships to qualifying families with K-12 students, primarily children in failing public schools or whose families’ income meets the state’s poverty threshold. Students can then attend a private or religious school of their choice. What makes these programs unique is that donors get a full or partial credit toward their state taxes, which they are not allowed when donating to most other charities, and this allows them to realize a sizable tax advantage when combined with a federal deduction on the same gift. Plus, in some states, donors also get a state deduction.

“What these scholarship tax credits do is they super charge that incentive up to 100 percent of the amount donated,” Carl Davis, senior tax expert with the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said. “And in the right set of circumstances, they’re receiving more back in tax breaks than they ever donated in the first place. … They’re able to claim a state tax credit and a federal deduction on a single donation and this is often profitable for them to do so.”

Davis’ organization released a report last month in conjunction with the American Association of School Superintendents that highlights nine states — Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia — where donors can make a profit from their donation.

Click image to enlarge

In Alabama, according to Davis, if a donor in a 28 percent tax bracket contributed $50,000 to a scholarship tax credit program, the donor would get a $50,000 tax credit to offset state taxes owed. Combine that tax credit with a federal deduction — calculated at the same tax rate — plus an additional state deduction for federal taxes paid, and the donor could receive up to $63,300 in tax cuts, which is a $13,300 profit.

Davis argues these programs divert much needed tax revenue away from state resources.

“Any other public service you can imagine can potentially suffer because of these scholarship tax credits,” he said. “There will be less funding for public schools, less funding for roads and bridges, health care, public safety.”

A Scripps survey of states found that from 2012 to 2016 at least $2.5 billion in tax credits were granted through the various state scholarship tax credit programs.

The programs aid in the redirection of money from state treasuries toward private schools at a time when states and the federal government are reducing public school funding. According to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, state funding for K-12 schools drastically declined in 31 states in  2014 compared to 2008, the most recent data available. President Trump, meanwhile, is calling for a $9.2 billion cut in the overall fiscal year 2018 federal education budget.

The generous incentives make donating to scholarship tax credit programs more lucrative than giving to most other non-profit organizations, which allow tax deductions but not credits. A tax deduction lowers the amount of income you’ll be taxed on. A tax credit reduces the taxes you pay on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

Scripps obtained a list of corporate donors to Pennsylvania’s scholarship tax credit programs. Contributors can receive up to 90 percent of their donations back in tax credits. The documents show companies, including Comcast of Pennsylvania, PNC Bank, N.A. and CIGNA Health, donated millions of dollars from 2012 to 2014 and received the maximum tax credit. Depending on their tax bracket, some of the corporations might have been able to realize a profit after claiming a federal tax deduction.

The programs are such an attractive tax tool that they are being promoted as a profit-maker on websites of scholarship granting organizations, private schools and accounting firms across the country.

A website for a scholarship granting organization in Georgia advertises that the state pays you to donate. And an organization in Virginia gives step-by-step instruction on how to turn your $10,000 gift into $10,960 in tax savings.

However, in Florida, where donors to its program can receive a 100 percent tax credit, protections are in place that prevent donors from combining state credits and federal deductions to make a profit. 

Supporters of the programs maintain the focus has always been about offering families educational choices beyond public education.

“We shouldn’t be talking about mechanisms, we should be talking about what works for kids,” said Dr. Robert Enlow, president and CEO of EdChoice, a non-profit based in Indianapolis, Ind., that advocates nationally for school choice. “There is a growing awareness that one size doesn’t fit all. And there’s also a growing awareness in urban areas that it [public education] hasn’t worked for families.”

Enlow said scholarship tax credit programs simply allow private individuals to support families. “We need more families being able to have access to more money,” he said.

Securing money for families is often left to non-profit organizations approved by the state’s scholarship tax credit program. In Virginia, the Diocese of Arlington is one of dozens of scholarship granting organizations in the state. Its schools accept students in the program, and its foundation raises money from donors.

“When we are soliciting these funds from donors, who, they might not otherwise donate without the credit, I think it can really be a win-win for both.” said Dr. Jennifer Bigelow, superintendent of schools for the diocese. “You have families who may have always desired a private school education or a Catholic school education, but it has not been a financial reality for them. And so these scholarship programs have been instituted to make it more attainable.”

The popularity of the state programs has spurred congressional bills that seek to create a national scholarship tax credit program to support K-12 students. If passed, the legislation would allow individuals and corporations to receive a federal tax credit on their contributions to scholarship granting organizations anywhere in the country.

The proposed legislation currently has no caps on the total amount of tax credits the federal government program would grant. However, there are dollar limitations on how much individual and corporate taxpayers can receive and safeguards would prevent donors from receiving multiple federal tax credits and deductions on a single donation.

But Davis argues of the state programs, “When you receive your full donation back … that’s not charitable.”

This story is the result of a three-month Scripps News investigation led by Angela M. Hill, national investigative producer. Angela is part of the Scripps Washington Bureau based in Washington, D.C. You can contact Angela at or follow her on Twitter @AngelaMHill. Producer Mark Fahey created the interactives.

William Elgin: From construction to teaching – Galesburg Register

After spending the majority of my adult life working construction, I found myself in a precarious situation. During summer of 2010, I suffered a serious injury at work and was faced with some hard decisions: either continue in my present job after healing from surgery or find a new occupation. Herein lay the dilemma. Although I completed four years of high school, I fell short of graduating with my class. This ruled out college, or so I thought.

Fall of 2010 found me on the mend from shoulder surgery and still nervously contemplating the future. During a casual conversation with my wife, Kimm — which upon reflection, was more by design then happenstance — a seed was planted. “You know, Sandburg has an adult literacy program” she said. Completely missing the point I replied, “I read just fine.” Noticing her facial expression (a matrimonial warning not worth ignoring) I attempted to salvage the rest of the day by saying, “I’ll look into it.” My wife immediately turned and handed me a note pad with all the information and phone numbers I needed. Realizing she had me in a box, I had no choice but to overlook her suspiciously well prepared information and make the calls regardless. A week later I was sitting in a classroom for the first time in 23 years. With the help of Sandburg instructors and the support of my family, I received my General Education Diploma in three short months.

After completion of my GED, I immediately enrolled in classes for the summer semester at Sandburg and never looked back. I had a couple of ideas of what I wanted to do, but nothing concrete. I had some general education courses to get out of the way, as well as some elective courses to choose from. As a 40-year-old nontraditional student, I had some concerns with Math and English — difficult subjects for me in high school. I was amazed at the amount of support I received from individual instructors as well as supplemental tutoring offered free of charge to all Sandburg students. In fact, the time I spent in the tutoring center ultimately changed my course of study. I had done so well in my English courses that I was offered a position as a tutor. It took me very little time to realize I was a teacher at heart and from that point on I became obsessed with that goal. At this point, I began taking all the social science courses I could fit into my schedule and even some that didn’t fit but I found ways to make it work. In a couple short years I had earned a degree. During my last semester at Sandburg, many of my professors diligently urged me to begin preparation for transfer to a four-year institution, but none so diligently as Lara Roemer, Dave Kellogg, and Garry Douglas. Without the guidance and support of these individuals, my life would be much different today.

After weighing my options, I decided to stay local to pursue my undergraduate degree. By transferring to Knox College, I was able to continue working at Sandburg doing what I loved while pursuing my undergraduate degree. This proved challenging at times but well worth the effort. I continued my studies in sociology and history and in a couple of not-so-short years, I found myself receiving another degree.

After completing my undergraduate degree, I was offered the position of adjunct English professor at Carl Sandburg College, and am currently enrolled in Western Illinois University’s graduate program of sociology. The support I receive as an instructor at Sandburg allows me the same success I had as a student. I consider myself extremely fortunate to work in this type of collaborative environment and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’m the person I am today because of the time I spent here at Sandburg and sincerely hope to be that kind of positive influence that changes lives for others. 

This article is written by William Elgin, Sandburg alumni and adjunct faculty.

In California push to help students with dyslexia, LA schools take a first step

Courtesy of Gabriella Barbosa

June 25, 2017
1 Comment

The Los Angeles Unified school board jumped ahead of a new state law last week and instructed the school district to immediately create a plan to train teachers on the leading learning disability in California:, a reading impairment known as dyslexia.

The demand by the board of the second-largest school district in the U.S. was hailed by parent advocates as a signal that districts across the state, and potentially the nation, might finally provide interventions that help students with dyslexia learn to read. Effective interventions are available, but most school districts nationwide do not provide them widely, citing the cost of training, according to advocates for students with disabilities.

“We know what works,” said Pamela Cohen, a teacher in the district and a member of Decoding Dyslexia California, a parent advocacy group that has led state and national efforts to improve services. “It’s time to put the pedal to the metal.” She described her child’s anguish at not being able to learn to read and her own frustration at not being able to get help from teachers or school specialists.

Instead, her son received private tutoring for dyslexia starting in 2nd grade — $90 an hour, twice a week, for four years — because Los Angeles Unified did not provide assistance, she said. Few families can afford to hire an outside specialist. “This is a civil rights issue to me,” Cohen said. “We know that thousands of families in LAUSD cannot and should not have to pay out of their pockets so their children can learn to read.”

Dyslexia is estimated to affect roughly 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population, according to the International Dyslexia Association — which would mean about 1 million children in California schools. Once known as “word blindness,” dyslexia is a neurological disorder that makes it difficult to “sound out” words by matching letters with sounds. Brain imagery has shown that people with dyslexia process word identification differently. The disability is unrelated to intelligence.

The board gave Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Michelle King 90 days to return with an action plan to provide staff and teacher training on the warning signs of dyslexia, interventions proven by research to be effective and appropriate assessments for identifying dyslexia. School board member Scott Schmerelson, who co-sponsored the resolution with board member Ref Rodriguez, said that increasing early identification and effective intervention will be “life-changing” for students with dyslexia and their families.

Pressure on school districts in California to do more to help students with dyslexia increased with the passage of a 2015 law, Assembly Bill 1369, authored by Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley. The law called for the California Department of Education to release new guidance for dyslexia services before the start of the 2017-18 school year — and the department has urged districts not to wait for the guidance to get started. In a traveling presentation to special education administrators around the state, the department said it is letting them know that both general education and special education departments need to make changes in how reading is taught.

“It needs to be about effective literacy instruction for all students, modified instruction for some and specifically targeted instruction for students with intensive reading needs, such as dyslexia,” the department said in a summary of its presentations to county offices of education.

And school districts are watching a class action lawsuit filed in May that charges the Berkeley Unified School District with not providing adequate diagnoses or interventions for students with dyslexia. Deborah Jacobson of Jacobson Education Law, who filed the lawsuit with the Disability Rights Defense Education Fund and the Goodwin law firm, said, “This is potentially an entire population of children who will struggle needlessly and possibly enter society functionally illiterate, no matter how intelligent, driven and capable they are.”

“I think what happens in L.A. Unified could be a model for other parts of the state and what happens in California could be a model for other states,” said Richard Wagner, associate director of the National Institute of Health’s Florida Center for Reading Research and a member of the California Department of Education’s Dyslexia Work Group, which was created to help form the new program guidelines.

L.A. Unified’s plan is being developed by Beth Kauffman, associate superintendent for the division of special education, and Alison Towery, director of instructional operations. Asked how broadly the training will be spread, Kauffman said, “We certainly are going to train our resource teachers. We are probably going to have do some training of our general education teachers so they at least have awareness of what some of the signs are.”

Warning signs include “reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters on the page – will say ‘puppy’ instead of the written word ‘dog’ on an illustrated page with a dog shown,” according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia Creativity.

Kauffman pointed to the district’s Intensive Diagnostic Education Centers as a resource. Those centers house teachers trained in research-backed dyslexia interventions, most of them stemming from what’s known as the Orton-Gillingham approach, that explicitly teach students to identify and manipulate the sound of a letter or a group of letters, among other techniques.

“We’d like to take the skills they have and see how we can expand those out to our general education classrooms and our special education program,” Kauffman said. Members of Decoding Dyslexia California praised the centers, but said there were far too few of them and that interventions should be happening with students in kindergarten and 1st grade, not in middle school and high school. Center staff teach in 23 classrooms located in 10 elementary schools, 12 middle schools and 1 high school — out of more than 900 schools and 187 public charter schools in the district.

“It really is about the money,” Sherry Rubalcava, who retired after 37 years of work in Los Angeles Unified as a teacher and administrator, said about the lack of training in dyslexia interventions that work.

She tutors a 6th-grade student who is reading at a 2nd-grade level despite spending three years receiving special education services in the district, she said. “They are already offering an intervention, but that intervention is worthless,” she said.

“What they don’t realize is that you spend money to save money,” she said of the district. “They’re spending all this money on worthless interventions. If you gave children the right intervention, you wouldn’t have to do it as long.”

She ticked off other benefits for the district for helping students with dyslexia, including an increase in school reading test scores, a jump in the number of English learners who are able to move out of English learner status, and improvement in behavior and attendance. “When kids can’t read, who wants to be in school?” she asked.

Mara Wiesen, president of the Los Angeles branch of the International Dyslexia Association, said of the teacher training, “I would argue it is ultimately cost effective to do so.”



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  1. Lori 8 hours ago8 hours ago

    Excellent article summarizing the challenges of meeting the needs of our dyslexic students. Early identification appropriate interventions are game changers!

Nevada expands school grant program to help poor students – Las Vegas Review

In this July 6, 2016 file photo, Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Nevada Department of Education Steve Canavero speaks to Clark County School District trustees about the Every Student  ...In this Jan. 28, 2016 file photo, Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Nevada Department of Education Steve Canavero speaks during the State Board of Education meeting at the Nevad ...

A change in a competitive grant program run by the Nevada Department of Education — partially prompted by a change in federal law — means more schools serving the state’s poorest students will have access to outside help.

Last year, five state school districts were awarded grants to work with a single nonprofit in an effort to help low-income students. The grants were focused on using data to improve decision-making, developing stronger teachers and training school officials in leadership.

This year, the department awarded grants funded through the federal Title I program to 11 districts to work with 10 different organizations. The increase was in part the result of the state changing the grant parameters and partly because it took on the responsibility of vetting new nonprofits that can work with districts.

For rural districts in counties like Humboldt, Nye and White Pine, securing one of the federally funded grants is a major coup. Despite being smaller than Clark and Washoe counties, the districts serve a sizable number of poor children.

“This is a first time we were awarded a grant under this program,” Humboldt Superintendent Dave Jensen said. “That’s what I think is incredible for us. That’s a significant amount of money that’s going to make a profound impact on our school over time.”

Jensen was referring to a K-12 school in his district — in Northern Nevada, near the Oregon border — serving 135 students with 15 certified teachers, which took home a $390,000 grant.

The grant will allow the school to contract with Achievement Network and The New Teacher Project, both national nonprofits, to help train teachers to improve the quality of their instruction when working with high-need students.

Deep, rather than wide

More than 70 of the state’s 80 or so Title I schools — those with a high proportion of low-income students — had grants approved by the state.

The majority of the money the state receives from the federal government under Title I goes directly to the schools. But the department must set aside 7 percent — about $8 million this year out of approximately $130 million — for school improvement efforts. The state administers that money through the competitive grant program.

Previously, only five districts took part, and they all worked with WestEd, a San Francisco-based nonprofit.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal education initiative enacted in 2015, Nevada expanded the grant parameters but required more proof from schools that the grant money would made a difference.

“The department has elected to go deep, rather than thin and wide, on a very few core strategies,” state Superintendent Steve Canavero said.

To help the Title I schools, Nevada vetted 19 different vendors and held a “speed-dating event” to match nonprofits with school districts.

“All of the 80 or so schools that were eligible came in and had an opportunity to meet all these vendors and figure out what made sense for them,” said state Deputy Superintendent Brett Barley.

Ten of the vendors were eventually were approved to work with schools in nine counties and two other local education agencies.

Clark County schools were awarded the bulk of the available grant money, raking in $2.8 million for 47 schools. White Pine was awarded almost $950,000 for three schools. Carson City, Elko, Humboldt, Mineral, Nye, Pershing, Washoe, the State Public Charter School Authority and Democracy Prep also received funds.

Influx of providers

In White Pine County, three of the district’s Title I schools will work with Pearson and the National Institute for School Leadership (NISL) to help solve an impending problem: a lack of properly prepared principals.

“All of our current principals are homegrown. They’ve come up through the ranks here,” said Superintendent Adam Young, a former high school principal in the district. “Many of them are getting ready to retire, so we want to increase that leadership pipeline.”

The school leadership program will serve as an 18-month executive leadership boot camp for up to 24 employees in the district. Participants will finish the program with about half of the necessary credits to earn a graduate degree in educational leadership — one of the best perks of the program, Young said.

During the state’s speed-dating event, Young’s staff looked at about a dozen organizations that focused on leadership skills and was finally able to find one that fit the district’s needs best.

“We wanted the vendor to be onsite. I wanted my participants to have a tangible outcome,” he said. “NISL was the only one that did all of what I described.”

title1 expanded options nevada dept of education

Meghin Delaney can be reached at 702-383-0281 or Follow @MeghinDelaney on Twitter.

What is ESSA?

The Every Student Succeeds Act was passed in 2015.

The federal law replaced the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act.

Education experts see the ESSA as a more flexible program, as it is intended to return more power to state departments of education.

The price of special education: As autism rates surge, so does the …





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California colleges transform remedial courses to raise graduation …

Before Aida Tseggai could major in biology at Cal State Dominguez Hills, she had to catch up in math.

She passed a non-credit remedial math class in the fall and then was offered a new pathway – a for-credit course in college-level algebra that provided extra class time, tutoring and review of more fundamental material.

Such combination classes – known as co-requisites, bridges or hybrids – are seen as a crucial tool to help hundreds of thousands of CSU students climb out of the remedial education hole in which some feel trapped. Part of a national reform movement, such courses also are aimed at helping students graduate faster.

“It saved me time and money,” said Tseggai.

Nervous at first about the spring co-requisite class, she wound up passing with a C grade. The combination of catch-up work and college level material, she said, was “very helpful. Like killing two birds with one stone.” Without that opportunity, her initial placement test results would have required her to take yet another non-credit remedial course.

CSU system administrators earlier this year said they want to turn all non-credit remedial classes into college-level credit bearing ones by 2018, with the co-requisite classes as the likely model. That move is an important part of the CSU campaign to bolster the system wide four-year completion rate for first-time freshmen to 40 percent from the current 19 percent by 2025. More than a third of entering CSU freshmen are found to need some remedial work.

Cal State Dominguez Hills serves a student body of 15,000, 75 percent of whom are Latino or black. Many are from low-income families, are first in their families to attend college and juggle school with jobs.

The campus has been a pioneer in moving toward the co-requisite model in both English and math. Most remedial students still must participate in a no-credit Early Start summer program that bolsters their academic skill. But over the past few years, the campus has been replacing the next levels of remedial math with credit-bearing co-requisites.

Results have been encouraging, officials say. However, as the spring algebra class showed, some students continue to fail.

Of the 960 incoming Dominguez Hills freshman placed in the remedial math track last summer, about 80 percent completed their remedial work and a co-requisite credit course in algebra or statistics in their first year. That compares to about 64 percent who finished remedial courses under the prior system without receiving credits, campus statistics show. Many who failed a co-requisite algebra or statistics class last fall retook it and passed in the spring, meeting a deadline to do so.


“It has definitely worked well for us. This is a lot better than where we were at before,” said math department chairman Matthew Jones.

Timing and tutoring are among the biggest differences between a bridge class and a traditional one.

For example, a traditional for-credit college algebra class usually meets three times a week for 50 minutes. In contrast, the co-requisite Tseggai attended met for an hour and ten minutes three times a week for instructor Cassondra Lochard’s lectures; in addition, students had an extra group hour weekly with a teaching assistant plus one-on-one tutoring. In contrast to regular classroom protocol, the teaching assistant circulated among the desks during lectures, softly giving advice and reviewing students’ calculations and algebra formulations.

Remedial students need the extra time, help and structure of a co-requisite class since many “lack the foundation” in algebra even if they received decent grades in it in high school, according to Lochard. Many students either forgot basics or did not pay attention in high school and feel the ideas “are brand new to them.” And if they do recall some concepts, “they mix them up in strange ways,” said Lochard, who is the campus coordinator for developmental, or remedial, math.

Just as important, she said, are work ethic and ability to complete assignments on deadline. Some freshmen have not yet mastered the demands and pace of college compared to high school’s more forgiving nature. “I think it’s more of a mentality change for them than an inability to acquire the skills,” she said.

While an increasing number of CSU campuses and California community colleges are starting or exploring co-requisite classes in math and English, several other states such as Tennessee, Indiana and Colorado have moved faster, experts say. Wider adoption across the country is likely over the next few years as state legislatures try to reduce spending on remediation and public colleges seek better graduation rates, said Chris Thorn, director of knowledge management at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching which is located in Stanford, Calif. “It is the writing on the wall,” he said of the spread of such bridge courses.

Early evidence shows those classes help more students complete remedial paths. But it is not clear yet how those students perform in subsequent math or science courses and whether graduation rates are improved, added Thorn, who has helped Carnegie develop its own alternative college math courses to speed remedial education. And, he added, co-requisites probably won’t help everyone: “It’s not a panacea.”

CSU students feel the pressure: they could be forced to leave the university if they don’t complete required remedial work within a year, including the chance to retake a class at a CSU or community college during summer if need be. Across the 23-campus CSU system, 13 percent of students in remedial courses were not allowed to return for a second year in 2016 because of such failures, according to a system report. Many others say they feel they wasted a year of time and a lot of money.

Two math tracks are available at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Students in the humanities, social sciences, and arts usually take statistics – and passing that class often fulfills their sole general education requirement in math. College algebra is the route for science, engineering and math students who likely need additional math classes such as pre-calculus.

In both tracks, co-requisite classes review more basic topics and push forward into new, college level material. Jones insists that the classes are not watered down and that the material and pass rates are similar to traditional algebra and statistics classes.

Lochard’s spring semester class had the ungainly name of “College Algebra with Intermediate Algebra Review.” She spent much time writing equations on the board, walking students through solutions and egging them on to discoveries in polynomials, quadratic equations, radicals and factoring. Besides a textbook, she assigned work from online platforms and her own supplemental material to keep the students “cycling” from review subjects to higher level work.

The course seems to have improved passing rates in subsequent math requirements for students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM courses, she said.

Her teaching assistant Muhammad Albayati, a sophomore, helped the algebra students too. A math and computer whiz who emigrated with his family from Iraq when he was 10 years old, Albayati was a supportive peer. While Lochard lectured or assigned exercises, students at times called out for “Muhammad” and he crouched over their work sheets and gave advice. He led a weekly study group without Lochard.

The students’ skills varied widely, but most need some emotional boosting to build their confidence, Albayati said. He and other peer tutors “provide understanding and acceptance. We show them we accept them for where they are.” He said co-requisite courses like this “give those borderline students the resources to pass the class….and a lot respond and will do whatever it takes to get through it.”

Still, some skip required study sessions and don’t turn in homework, he noted. Some “still have a high school mentality” and think they can “mess around and pass the class and that’s not the case in the university. The material is a lot harder and the professor does not have to take care of a student the way a high school teacher does,” said Albayati, who is transferring in the fall to UC Irvine to study video game design.

Many students in Lochard’s recent spring semester class were repeaters: they had failed a similar class in the fall and needed at least a C minus to pass. After some early drop-outs, 60 percent of those who remained passed. The record was better in the fall, when nearly 80 percent passed the co-requisite college algebra first time out and the rate was even higher for the statistics courses.

Raquel Herrera, a Dominguez Hills freshman, failed the spring class. She complained the course went by too fast yet also blamed herself for not completing some homework.

Facing a possible forced withdrawal from the university, she might have taken algebra in summer school. But she instead appealed, was found to have a learning disability and was given the chance to take a substitute course, likely in statistics, in the fall with more assistance.

Still, she said she resents the placement system that tested her without allowing calculators on forgotten material from high school. She remains “really annoyed” that her college education might have been ruined by one math course. “It’s not fair because I worked really hard to get where I am,” said Herrera, who is switching her major from biochemistry to liberal studies, with a goal of becoming a teacher.

In contrast, Aida Tseggai appreciates how Lochard and Albayati helped her and is proud she improved her grade as the semester went on. While she originally resented being placed in remedial math, she said she now views the system as “fair” and knows she received solid preparation for pre-calculus next spring.

“Mixing together remedial and regular algebra helped us get ahead,” she said.