Bremerton schools get $1 million grant for math education

BREMERTON — The Bremerton School District was awarded a five-year, $1 million grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity, the district announced Jan. 5.

Linda Hupka, BSD director of career, technical and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, said the grant will go toward further developing math education.

“What we wrote the grant [application] for was to improve academic achievement in math in the district, and looking at career readiness in the STEM fields, K-12,” Hupka said.

She said a “good amount” of the funds will go toward professional development of staff to ensure students are getting the best education possible. Some will go to interventionists and counselors to help “kids plan ahead their career pathways.”

Hupka said the goal is that students who wish to take STEM classes with high levels of math and science prerequisites will be able to do so, thanks to the math programs that will be enhanced over the next few years. (BSD received a similar DOD Education Activity grant focusing on science education in 2016-17.)

“We certainly have, statewide, seen a problem with math achievement in our assessments across the board,” Hupka said.

“I think [math is] really very critical when we’re looking at STEM careers. They need to be prepared. We need to really be making sure, by the time they get to high school, if they’ve decided on a career that takes a lot of science and math, they’re ready.”

The 2017-18 school year is a “planning year” for how specifically to use the grant money, Hupka said.

“We’re really meeting and trying to decide … what all we’re going to be doing,” she said. “There is some funding for some supplies/materials, but the biggest part is the training.”

She said the district will be hiring staff, including a part-time coordinator, and determining what they’ll need for professional development. She said they also hope to have, at least at the Middle Schools, summer STEM programs “working on building their academic, and doing some hands-on STEM activities as well.”

DOD Education Activity grants are offered to schools to benefit the education of military students, and Hupka said baseline data will be pulled from military students’ data, but “it’ll be targeted at every student as well.”

In the BSD announcement, Superintendent Aaron Leavell said, “I am thankful that this federal grant can help us to provide targeted professional development for our staff that will result in an increase in math achievement for all students in our community.

“Furthermore, feedback from our community places a high priority on developing students who are prepared for college, career and life. This grant funding will help us to take steps toward expanding opportunities that will provide a strong college- and career-ready environment for students.”

The three overall goals of the grant project are stated as:

Increasing academic achievement of elementary military-dependent students in math.

Increasing achievement of secondary military-dependent students in math.

Increasing career opportunities and access to STEM career pathways for all students, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

— Michelle Beahm is online editor for Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at mbeahm@ soundpublishing.com.

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