At least two high schools in Central Oregon, Marshall High School in Bend and Madras High School, have shown in the last couple of years how an influx of extra money and hard work on the part of staff can make a difference in how students perform.
The money for each, $3 million for Madras and $2 million for Marshall, came from the U.S. Department of Education’s School Improvement Grant program. The program sends extra money to states for low performing schools that also have high poverty rates, among other things.
Now the money has been spent, and it will be up to the schools to demonstrate that they can continue providing students with the tools they need to succeed.
There are some similarities in the way the two schools approached the problem of low test scores and low graduation rates. In each, struggling students were given extra instruction in areas in which they struggled.
In fact, officials in both schools told Bulletin reporter Tyler Leeds that struggling students were offered a double dose of instruction in some areas. The extra teaching paid off with higher scores in both schools.
Both schools did something else, as well. Faculty in each worked to create proficiency-based programs that rewarded students for understanding the material they were being taught. And, in both, teachers themselves got extra instruction in professional development. At Marshall, part of the effort went toward preparing to use Common Core curriculum in math before it is adopted statewide.
Madras High School used some of its $3 million — stretched over three years — to hire additional faculty. Without the extra money, at least some of those teachers have or will disappear, and remaining faculty will have to pick up the slack.
At Marshall, a high student turnover rate makes continuity in education a continuing challenge.
The trick for both now will be to make the improvements last now that the extra money is gone.