Grant Hoped to Boost Achievement, Performance Rank

Godwin Heights High students work on science projects at the spring Science Night

The district’s high school will use money from a recently approved School Improvement Grant on technology, professional development and added personnel to help zero in on areas of need.

The five-year grant, approved by the Michigan Department of Education, will include allocations of $750,000 each year for the first three years and $500,000 each year for the final two years. Godwin Heights is one of 14 low-performing schools to receive the grant to increase student achievement.

The MDE is distributing the federal funds to the schools in the bottom 5 percent of the state’s annual top-to-bottom rankings, as Michigan’s last SIG recipients. It is also the final round of SIG grants nationwide.

While approval of the grant coincided with the state’s School Reform Office’s announcement that it may close some priority schools, Superintendent William Fetterhoff said there is no indication that Godwin Heights High School will be shuttered. School Reform Office officials visited the school in August, but have checked in regularly, sometimes virtually, since the school was put on the list in 2013.

“They have actually been happy with the progress they’ve seen,” Fetterhoff said. “Our growth has been received well as we’ve reported it, but more importantly we’ve been happy with the strides we’ve seen in our student progress.”

Principal Chad Conklin said students have made gains without the SIG grant and the funds will help that momentum continue. Before the state switched the required high school college-entrance assessment from the ACT to SAT, they experienced a 5 to 10 percent increase in scores on the ACT, from an overall composite score of 16.4 in 2012-2013 to 2014-2015. Scores increased in each ACT content area as well.

“I’m very proud and excited to be able to say we’ve seen an increase in our standardized test scores over the last twoyears and they’ve been the best that they’ve been than over the last five years,” he said.

The SIG grant will go toward include improving literacy across all content area, preparing students for the workforce or college by developing communication and collaboration skills and professional development.

It will also fund a SIG coordinator and data coach, which could be a combined or separate positions, and intervention specialists, who are like learning coaches.

The data coach will train staff to use data to find gaps in learning.

“Intervention specialists will be working right alongside our core teachers, almost in a co-teaching regard so they add more support in our classrooms,” Conklin said

The specialists will provide after-school tutoring offered to prioritize learning based on how students do on assessments. New classroom technology will include including Chromebook carts, interactive whiteboards and digital projectors.

Godwin Heights should be removed from priority school status after this year, Conklin said. “We need to have another good year of standardized testing and see our scores improve for that to happen, and we fully expect that to happen.”

He said they are continuing to work toward improvement goals.

“We have a fantastic staff at the high school that is working tremendously hard on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “I know they’re excited to have a little extra support now with the SIG grant to provide even more things for the students.”

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Info on SIG Grants

Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2012. Read Erin's full bio

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