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Districts, schools win grants to support college access work


Nine Delaware school districts and high schools will implement comprehensive, innovative strategies to increase college readiness and access during the 2016-2017 school year with grants from the state’s College Access fund.


“These grants will support preparing middle school students to take advanced classes when they reach high school, increase training for teachers of advanced classes, support counselors on college access work and allow for partnerships with community organizations to increase support for students,” Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky said.


The grants from the Delaware Department of Education’s Higher Education Office are part of a broad state strategy to increase college-going that includes the Getting to Zero campaign and investments in boosting success in Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment classes.


The Delaware Goes to College grant and the AP Incentive grant support innovative and proven programs that increase student access to rigorous coursework and drive all students towards post-secondary education, including certificates, apprenticeships, and two-year and four-year degrees.


Both grant opportunities provide districts and schools with funding that can be used to support programs and professional learning in both middle and high school that drives change in any of the four recommendations from the 2016 College Success Report:


The Delaware Higher Education Office selected two districts and two high schools to receive 2016-2017 Delaware Goes to College grants that were open to all districts and charters to promote their comprehensive strategies:


  • St. George’s Technical High School ($60,950) will implement Project Hawk SOARS (Students on Accessible Roads to Success) to provide services to first-generation college going students, males of color and/or students from low-income households, while enhancing targeted supports for all students around success, college awareness, and transitions to post-secondary education.


·         Middletown High School ($60,060) will expand existing services including the CAVS College Boot Camp Series and cast a wider net to extend programs district-wide to service middle school students. These efforts include increasing the number of college visits, mentoring initiatives, dual enrollment and growing workshops to increasing parent awareness, advocacy and financial literacy.


  • Indian River School District ($30,880) will enhance school counselor professional development, middle school training programs and strategic partnerships with community organizations to better define support systems that assist in the transition from middle to high school, high school to college, and college to career.


  • Colonial School District ($52,000) will expand its Communities in Schools (CIS) program to McCullough Middle School to address middle level needs as well as continue CIS in William Penn High School and the Wallin School to prepare students for college and career readiness before, during and beyond high school.

Through a separate competitive grant open to all districts and charters, four districts and two high schools received 2016-2017 Advanced Placement Incentive Grants. Colonial and Appoquinimink school districts received both grants.


  • Appoquinimink High School       ($56,610)
  • Brandywine School District        ($38,100)
  • Capital School District                  ($35,760)
  • Colonial School District               ($39,390)
  • Newark Charter High School      ($23,540)
  • Milford School District                  ($16,100)

The districts and schools will use the grants to provide teachers of AP classes with professional development and to increase the rigor of middle school courses to better prepare students for AP classes in high school.


Last year, Brandywine School District was one of two districts to receive both the AP Incentive and the Delaware Goes to College grants. The administration used the funds to create college and career centers in school libraries as well as develop college- and career-focused student seminar periods in Schoology, an online course management system, so that all three of Brandywine’s high schools were able to share resources.


Additionally, the district embedded more college and career professional learning in their school counselor job descriptions and professional learning opportunities to include greater emphasis on college and career awareness.


“A major piece for us was to make sure that something as important as college and career planning was built into the regular school day schedule,” Cary Riches, Brandywine School District’s director of curriculum and instruction, pre-k to 12, said. “We wanted all kids to know, ‘This is how you navigate higher ed, the world of work, apprenticeships or the military,’ and we included all kids so that we’re not the ones predicting who is going to college and who isn’t.”


Riches credits the grants with increasing teacher and student awareness throughout the district around what “college and career readiness” really means in 2016, which required new and timely curriculum. 


“We really had to push people to think globally about what preparing a student for college and career looks like now,” Riches said. “We wouldn’t have been able to build the curriculum, buy the curriculum, and train all teachers without the grants. It wouldn’t have been in our wheelhouse to do this or as fast as we were able to. The grants have been a huge help.”


Capital School District also saw the funds received last year benefit students and educators. A recipient of the Delaware Goes to College grant, the district created a Passport to Success program that offered 43 different college- and career-planning workshops to students that included guest speakers as well as parent, teacher, administrator and community-member participation. Capital also created a student advisory period called Senator Up! and partnered with the University of Delaware’s College Readiness Scholars Institute (CRSI), which gave 19 students the opportunity this summer to live at UD, take classes, and learn how to apply to college.


“The impact of this grant and our goals has been notable,” Terri Sharpe, associate principal at Capital’s Dover High School, said. “Most of the activities and goals we set are sustainable. The most challenging to make sustainable is UD’s CRSI; however, we are committed to looking for resources to continue this work.”


Alison May
(302) 735-4006