The Community Foundation commits resources through its proactive grant program to targeted areas of investment. CFHZ recently distributed $130,000 to three organizations providing innovative solutions to help reduce the education opportunity gap. These grants focus on elementary age students with a particular emphasis on addressing learning loss in math skills.
Testing for the most recent academic year confirms that student proficiency in both Math and English Language Arts has decreased, with Black, Hispanic, and students from economically disadvantaged households being most severely impacted. Data and anecdotal evidence from local teachers, administrators, and other school staff shows there are an elevated number of students with social-emotional and mental health needs and a higher need for integrated academic interventions to help close the growing education opportunity gap.
The grants focus on elementary age students with a particular emphasis on addressing learning loss in math skills.
West Ottawa Public Schools – Project Panther
Amount Awarded: $60,000 over two years
Purpose: To help address learning loss and mitigate gaps at the pivotal third grade year by providing after school programming and transportation. West Ottawa Public Schools will provide three free six-week after school program sessions during the academic year that include supports for students who have fallen behind or experienced learning loss in math. The program uses application-based problem solving models that make math fun and interactive. Current teachers, qualified community members, and aspiring teachers will provide the instruction. Transportation will also be included to ensure that any student who qualifies for the program is able to participate.
Tim Bearden, West Ottawa Superintendent, commented, “We are thrilled to partner with CFHZ in supporting West Ottawa students through Project Panther. This program is consistent with our Strategic Plan core value of equity of opportunity by providing an after-school program with no cost or barriers to students and families. This program addresses a critical need, and is part of our multi-faceted approach to addressing learning loss. We can’t wait to get started!”
Hope College Children’s After School Achievement (CASA) and Step Up – Academic Intervention Specialist
Amount Awarded: $50,000 over two years
Purpose: To assist Step Up and CASA in hiring an academic intervention specialist to implement personalized academic support during academic year and summer out-of-school time programming. Together, CASA and Step Up serve up to 145 Holland Public and West Ottawa students from underrepresented and low-income households in need of additional academic supports in literacy, math, and science. These funds will help increase capacity by bringing a new position to support both students and tutors in math and general study skills, including working directly with students in small group and individual sessions.
ODC Network – Summer Program Student Recruitment and Staff Training
Amount Awarded: $20,000
Purpose: To help fund a six-week summer program that combines outdoor education with academic interventions for K-5 students in the greater Holland area, prioritizing students from economically disadvantaged households who are behind in grade-level reading/math expectations. Research shows that these students are most at-risk for experiencing learning loss during the summer school break. ODC’s program offers experiential learning combined with literacy and math activities led by trained contract educators. The program will take place at five sites across the community, with transportation and lunch made available in partnership with local school districts.
“While districts have seen reading and literacy rebound to some degree, math continues to lag and has become a major concern for local practitioners,” said Yah-Hanna Jenkins Leys, Director of Community Impact. “We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with these three organizations to help deliver critical programming that will help address the education achievement gap and ensure that all children in our community have access to the resources necessary for them to thrive.”
More information about grantmaking is available here.