West High Receives $250,000 in Grant Money
The Salt Lake Education Foundation and Salt Lake City School District are excited to announce a new partnership with the Utah Partners in Education: The Robert and Verda Mae Christensen Fund. This generous partnership involves five grant awards, totaling $250,000, to benefit students at West High School.
Salt Lake City School District Superintendent Dr. Lexi Cunningham said, “The Salt Lake City School District is honored to be partner with the Robert and Verda Mae Christen Fund in this exciting and meaningful endeavor. Our goal is to powerfully augment a concentration and devotion to not only a belief that all students can learn at high levels but actionable objectives that will change educational practices systemically."
During a recent visit, Randy Shumway of Utah Partners in Education spoke to West High School teachers and shared a personal invitation with them to work to advance student achievement through use of research-based, targeted instructional strategies. His challenge was a call to inspire “disruptive innovation” in the classroom that will change the way students learn. West High School educators were invited to submit applications for this grant, and five educator-led projects were selected.
Regarding the pool of applicants, Mr. Shumway said, “It was truly inspirational to see the high number of challenge grant applications from West High School educators. The grants submitted were smart, focused on student learning, and helped the selection committee gain greater insight into the needs of West High School students. It’s clear that West High teachers have incredible ideas on how to improve the academic programs at their school.”
The grants were scored by a committee that included:
- A family representative for Robert and Verda Mae Christensen
- Representatives from the offices of Governor Herbert and Mayor Biskupski
- 2 professors from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, both of whom are highly-regarded internationally for their work on evidence-based practices
- Utah business leaders
- Alumni of West High School
- Parents of West High School students
- Educators currently working at West High School
The scoring included the following priorities identified by the fund’s donors:
- The grant proposal addresses a clear need of West High School students.
- The proposal clearly outlines how student outcomes will be measured.
- The proposal shows strong alignment with West High School’s School Improvement Plan.
- The proposal shows an enthusiastic willingness to invite partners into the classroom.
- The proposal demonstrates a solid focus on addressing the learning needs of vulnerable student groups.
The five final grant selections had several things in common. They are all focused on groups of vulnerable students and on helping to build students’ language skills through instruction and/or technology supports. These two criteria are of great importance to the fund, as Verda Mae Christensen was a reading teacher, and the Christensen family is known for championing opportunities for vulnerable student groups.
The $250,000 in grants will allow West High School teachers to:
- Incorporate and maximize the use of technology in the classroom
- Partner with the University of Utah to incorporate targeted reading interventions for students not presently reading on grade level
- Work to close opportunity gaps for typically underrepresented students by helping students achieve college readiness and access the Utah System of Higher Education