Clear Creek ISD Receives Two Grants from the USDE
For Immediate Release Contact: Karen Fitzgerald
The Clear Creek Independent School District recently received two grants totaling $650,000 from the United States Department of Education. The largest grant for $500,000 was awarded to the Professional Development School at McWhirter Elementary School to support a two-way immersion project known as Estrellas. The goal of Estrellas is to develop bilingualism and bi-literacy for both Spanish and English speakers. The project will be implemented this school year beginning with Pre-kindergarten students. The program will be completely implemented when the Pre-kindergarten students reach fifth grade.
“The program will begin with oral English and Spanish preparation for Pre-K students,” Holly Hughes, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education, said. “Many components are involved in this project’s success, such as staff development, writing and implementing the curriculum, and parent involvement.”
Teachers and students will be immersed with two-way dialogue. Students who predominately speak English will be surrounded with the Spanish language and students who predominately speak Spanish will be surrounded with the English language. The two-way immersion process is effective in learning new languages. Kindergarten students from across the District will have the opportunity to apply to attend Estellas in fall 2004.
The instructional techniques are vital to the project’s success. The staff development component focuses on opportunities for language output, cooperative learning, language arts instruction for both languages, and discovery learning.
Cindy Stamps, the McWhirter Elementary School principal said, “The McWhirter Estrellas Project is key in developing skills that are needed to excel in the 21st Century. Not only does this project focus on students, it also focuses on helping parents increase their language proficiency, too.”
An important element to the McWhirter Estrellas Project is parent involvement. The McWhirter Parent Center, which opened last school year, will work with parents to assist their child in this project. Parents will also have access to ESL and GED classes.
“Our District recognizes that parents are vital to student achievement,” Susan Bauer, the District grant writer, said. “The McWhirter Estrellas Project is an exciting new opportunity to expand language proficiency while bringing an entire school community together.”
The second grant for a $150,000 will allow CCISD to research how smaller learning communities within large public high schools can increase student achievement. CCISD is one out of three school districts in Texas and one out of 88 nation-wide that received the Federal grant.
“We are very excited to have received this grant,” Lynne Cleveland, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education, said. “CCISD has visited other high schools using smaller learning communities. These high schools have increased student performance and have been able to address students social and academic needs.”
The districts receiving the grants are working to promote academic achievement through small, safe, and successful learning environments. Small learning communities are creating small learning teams within a large high school setting.
To begin implementing the smaller learning communities, a district-wide needs assessment outlined key issues related to student performance. The key issues include:
· New state-wide testing standards
· Rapid growth
· Security needs
· Gaps in student achievement
A committee comprised of students, teachers, parents and business leaders, will research how to implement the small learning communities effectively. The committee will implement a rigorous academic curriculum, provide teacher training and ensure real-world relevance in the classroom.
“Currently, the district will pilot the small learning communities at Clear Lake High School. A committee is in place assessing needs to start the implementation process,” Cleveland said.
The small learning communities will be phased in at Clear Brook High School and Clear Creek High Schools after Clear Lake High School has started the pilot program.
Other Texas districts receiving a Smaller Learning Community Federal Grant are Southwest Independent School District and Cedar Hill High School.