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January 8, 2004

Glenwood school, ISD to benefit from grants

From: Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, IA - Jan 8, 2004


GLENWOOD - Fourth-grade teachers at West Elementary will have a new tool to help them assist students in reading and math, thanks to a Star Schools Connectivity grant.

Middle School students at the Iowa School for the Deaf will also be able to close the learning gap deaf students often face - again a result of the grant they received.

The West Elementary and ISD awards are two of 64 Iowa Star School grants announced for the 2003 fiscal year under the federal Omnibus Appropriations bill, said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Monday.

The amount awarded to Iowa schools is more than $1.5 million.

The program began in 1992 to assist educational institutions in obtaining high speed Internet connections and hardware and software to support learning.

West Elementary Principal Kevin Farmer said part of the $25,000 award is being used to purchase computer software that will pinpoint specific problems students are having.

He said the software will target incoming fourth-graders who are not proficient in math or reading to identify their learning needs.

"For example, maybe a student is struggling with division," he said. "The new program might indicate they usually make an error at the second stage of problem-solving. It would show a pattern.".

Farmer said the teacher would then develop a specific strategy to work on that stage.

"Each student will have a very specific profile once they have completed the program," he said.

Farmer said teachers have always done assessments, but this will help narrow down problem areas the student can work on.

Greg Fox, director of development at Iowa School for the Deaf, said deaf students traditionally have a "tremendous learning advantage" with visual-based learning, and the grant money will be used to take advantage of that.

"Since this is a learning grant that focuses on inter connectivity, the $22,650 grant will be used for technology to help overcome the language gap deaf students experience," Fox said.

The funds from the grant, written back in November, will be used to purchase video cameras, computers, software, and go toward staff development for students and staff to produce multimedia projects, Fox said.

In addition to the diagnostic software, Farmer said, the Glenwood school will use the grant to buy 12 computers, three laser printers and networking hardware.

"It will provide technology opportunities for all fourth-grade students," he said.

Farmer said West Elementary has 500 students and serves Glenwood, Pacific Junction, Silver City and Mineola. He said the program will be operational this school year.

Fox said it will be left to the discretion of the students and faculty as to how the program will operate.

Fox said the middle school project will address both language arts and current technology goals at the school.

"It's a nice fit and allows us to address some needs that we already had, while also allowing to create some new cutting edge programs."

The elementary school already has a similar program in place, and Fox said it only makes sense to provide more continuity for the program once students go from the elementary to the middle school level.

"We really feel honored to have received the award and are also extremely grateful to Sen. Harkin to make these monies available," Fox said.

©Daily Nonpareil 2004