published Saturday, February 12th, 2011

Grant aids Bradley, Cleveland academics

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Bradley County and Cleveland city schools quickly are putting their Smaller Learning Communities program into place with a $5.4 million federal grant.

On Oct. 1, 2010, the county and city schools, acting as a team, won the only Smaller Learning Communities Grant in Tennessee from the U.S. Department of Education. It was one of 28 similar grants nationwide.

Patti Hunt, lead grant writer, told the Bradley County Board of Education on Thursday that "things are already taking place in our schools because of these funds."

She said the people already have been hired for positions funded by the grant and put in place at Bradley Central, Walker Valley and Cleveland high schools.

The Smaller Learning Communities program's purpose is to break down large student populations into smaller groups so students form strong connections and stay in school. Each of the three schools now has a ninth-grade academy. The county high schools each have a 10th-grade academy, and one is planned next year at Cleveland High.

The first of three goals over the five-year grant is to prepare students for success after high school.

That includes sending teachers to professional seminars the school systems would not be able to afford on their own; increasing the number of college preparation courses at Bradley and Walker Valley; and scheduling collaborative and common planning time.

A second goal is creating rigorous and engaging learning environments. Grant money will be used for seminars for teachers and tutoring and credit recovery programs for students.

The third goal is creating teacher advisory groups at all three schools. A teacher follows a small group of students all the way through high school, meeting with them once a week, monitoring progress and providing support.

The grant also provides summer bridge programs for eighth graders facing high school.

"We started October first, and it takes a little time to get started," Hunt told the board.

"We know teachers work better when they feel they are supported," county schools Director Johnny McDaniel said. "When we develop small learning communities for teachers, that's going to help our children learn better, do better academically. ... I think the board will be very satisfied as this project moves forward."

McDaniel introduced the ninth-grade academy in 2008 as Bradley Central principal.

"Where we are funded financially, grants make a huge difference," board Chairman Troy Weathers said.

"Why are we excited about this grant? We believe it is going to affect students for years to come. It's going to change lives for teachers. That's the excitement. We can't pay for this by ourselves."

Contact staff writer Randall Higgins at rhiggins@timesfreepress.com or 423-314-1029.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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