The yet-to-open Warm Springs K-8 Academy has received $1.64 million from a federal program that targets low-income, low-achieving schools for three-year turnarounds.
This is the third wave of the U.S. Department of Education School Improvement Grants, which have brought $55.4 million to Oregon schools.
In Central Oregon, the program has given awards to Marshall High School in Bend and Jefferson County Middle School and Madras High School.
The award coincides with the opening of the Warm Springs K-8 Academy this coming fall. The school, funded jointly by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and a bond approved by Jefferson County voters, will replace Warm Springs Elementary, which did not host middle school students. Despite being on the reservation, the school is a part of the Jefferson County School District.
The school’s planning principal, Glenna DeSouza, said the money will be used to train teachers in the adoption of a curriculum that will emphasize new instruction techniques, aimed at allowing students to master skills while working independently and on large projects.
“We’ve developed the model over the past year by visiting different schools that use these learning models,” DeSouza said. “In order to do all of this, there must be a lot of professional development, and we’re going to start by building that foundation.”
The school will begin by emphasizing blended learning, a strategy in which students complete tasks with the help of technology, often working on their own or in small groups. The bigger challenge for the school entails developing rubrics for self-mastery, an approach in which students progress by demonstrating certain skills outlined by teachers.
“The goal is to have students really understand what they need to know to make it to the next level,” DeSouza said. “It takes a lot of work to develop the rubrics we will be using.”
Tied up with personal mastery is project-based instruction, in which students learn lessons by completing projects integrated across different classes.
Aside from professional development, funds will be used to foster connections between the tribe’s history and students.
“We’re connecting with the Museum at Warm Springs to provide cultural arts programs after school and even during school for certain classes,” DeSouza said. “We’re also looking at bringing language instruction into the school, and starting that with kindergarten students.”
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