CONTACT: SCOTT HAUSER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0007; fax (319) 384-0024
UI education professor, elementary school receive $600,000 grant
to create 'community'
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa assistant professor of education
and an Iowa City elementary school will spend the next four years exploring
ways to use the school's cultural, socio-economic and intellectual diversity
to get parents and students more involved in the life of the school, thanks
to a $622,000 grant from the state of Iowa.
Kathryn Whitmore, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction,
will use the grant from the Iowa Department of Education to continue an
innovative program at Horace Mann Elementary School designed to create
a sense of community in the school and to strengthen ties between the school
and nearby neighborhoods.
The new grant, which provides for $155,729 a year, begins July 1 and
is geared toward students in kindergarten through third grade. It continues
a project Whitmore began at Horace Mann in 1994.
The grant is co-directed by Stephanie Heitman, co-principal at Horace
"Our objective is to create a community school that will challenge
kids with highly intellectual learning experiences," Whitmore says.
"To achieve that, we want to recognize and use our diversity as a
resource to create developmentally appropriate, meaningful, multicultural
learning experiences for young children and build strong bridges between
our students' homes and the school."
The new project, which will cut in half the student-teacher ratio in
K-3 classrooms at Mann, emphasizes two main features:
-- Increase and improve community initiatives designed to bolster the
relationship between the school and its surrounding community.
Examples include hiring a liaison to coordinate partnerships between
the school and community and education groups; creating study groups involving
parents, teachers and students; teaching UI education classes at the school;
and creating a partnership between the College of Education and the school
to share educational resources.
-- Create and expand efforts to make Horace Mann a family-centered school,
where parents, students and teachers are involved in improving education.
Examples include hiring a liaison to help parents meet each other and
get to know the staff of the school; establishing a weekly family night
for parents and students to visit the school; creating a mentoring program
to match parents of current students with new parents to offer advice and
to introduce parents to the school; creating a Family Resource Center at
The project will also continue an innovative study group concept known
as "Parent-Kid-Teacher Investigators" (PKTI). The group, introduced
to the school by Whitmore, includes parents, students, teachers and UI
researchers who meet regularly to study issues of concern to children and
Results of PKTI teams are currently in use at the school.
Whitmore says researchers have long known that increasing family involvement
in schools helps improve education for students, but traditional approaches
are often not enough.
"We want to get parents into the school for a variety of reasons,
and we want them to feel comfortable being there," Whitmore says.
"The traditional way to do that was through parent-teacher conferences,
or maybe through parent-teacher organizations. We want to involve parents
in a more dynamic way, letting them see that their experiences and their
input are valued by the school and will help their children learn better."
The new project also emphasizes that the diversity of the student population
is a resource that the school can draw on to broaden the curriculum, Whitmore
says. For example, parents of particular ethnic origins can serve as guest
speakers or can advise teachers on ways to improve lesson plans to better
portray other cultures and to avoid stereotypes.
"We often don't think of the diversity of our schools and community
as different funds of knowledge that can be drawn upon to enrich, expand
and improve learning," Whitmore says.
Currently, the student-teacher ratio in K-3 classes at Horace Mann is
about 1-to-20. With the grant, and the 4.5 new staff positions it provides,
the ratio drops to about 1-to-10 or 1-to-15.