Every public school student should have an equal opportunity to learn as much as he or she is willing and able to. Unfortunately, not all schools offer the same level of potential learning experience. This can be due to a number of factors. There may be poor curriculum, lack of teacher support, a shortage of learning materials, difficult home circumstances among some students, or other issues that may lead to subpar outcomes.
Government grant funding has been allocated to help improve some of these circumstances, either directly or indirectly. An example of direct usage of government grant funding would be for updated textbooks. A government grant that would have an indirect effect is subsidizing school lunches, with the idea that hungry kids are not going to be at their best on the learning process.
There are three major categories for which government grants are awarded to underperforming schools: leadership, attendance, and reading. Here’s why.
Leadership in a school determines a school’s success. Even with individually talented teachers, there must be overall strong leadership for the school to function well and for the students to learn effectively. Government grants can provide an infusion of funding for the purpose of leadership training, advisory consultants, or to attract talent in the hiring process.
Attendance is also a major factor in a school’s quality. Obviously, students have to show up to be able to learn. In addition, falling behind even a little can significantly hinder learning and increase dropout rates.
The problem of low attendance can be addressed in a two-pronged approach. First, the quality of the learning experience has to make it worthwhile for students to be in class. Government grants can help reduce class size, improve the curriculum, hire extra staff, develop programs for students who need extra help, and anything else that will help keep each student on track. There have been some experimental programs in which government grants have been used to provide incentives for kids to stay in school.
Secondly, a student’s home life can have an effect on the student being able to attend class, especially in lower-income areas or school districts with single-parent households. For instance, a student may be kept at home to provide childcare for a younger sibling if the parent has no other options. Government grants are often used in this instance, to develop community programs that will ease burdens in other areas and enable kids to go to school. Some examples of how government grants could help in this instance are subsidized child care, afterschool programs, and community centers.
The third area in which there is a large amount of government grant funding is reading programs. Reading skills are used as an overall barometer of students’ progress. A student who cannot read at the appropriate grade level will suffer in all classroom courses, with the possible exception of math. There cannot be satisfactory academic progress without fundamental reading skills.
Some ways that government grants have been used to address the need for sufficient reading skills is the development of supplemental classes or tutoring, either during or outside of normal school hours. In some instances, the extra training is divided according to students’ needs, such as those with learning disabilities, those who are learning English as a Second Language (ESL), and those who may need motivation and help with the mechanics of learning.
With strong leadership, help to improve attendance, and extra instruction to improve reading skills–all made possible by government grants–an underperforming school has a good shot at reversing the negative trend and becoming a high-quality institution of learning.