How Education Grants Help Students from Under-resourced Communities

Education grants — sources of aid that support a specific need within a classroom or school district — provide vital financial and tangible resources to K-12 classrooms across the South, where “56 percent of all Black students in the United States” live, as of 2019. Grantmaking in education is an attempt to create equity in schools where racial discrimination, income inequality, and unjust practices have created gaps in life outcomes for students. 

“School districts where the majority of students enrolled are students of color receive $23 billion less in education funding than predominantly white school districts, despite serving the same number of students – a dramatic discrepancy that underscores the depth of K-12 funding inequities,” U.S. News shares. This imbalance can be linked to the discrimination of Black and brown families. Practices like redlining and housing segregation directly impact property taxes, which, in turn, affect the amount of money school districts receive, creating inequity. Particularly for students of color or those living in under-resourced areas, grants help bridge those gaps that antiquated state funding and discriminatory public policy leave. “That is what equity is, that different needs require different funding amounts,” states Georgia Budget and Policy Institute education director Stephen Owens in GPB News.

Inequity in education is a pervasive problem, which deeply impacts students of color and children living in under-served areas. “The state’s population has roughly doubled, and costs for expenses like transportation, technology, and counselors have radically changed,” according to GPB News, and “Georgia is one of only six states that do not allocate extra money to students living in poverty.” This leads to a lower quality education for the students facing this reality.

Education grants in K-12 schools are especially important because they introduce money and supplies directly into a classroom and or a school district that needs it the most, which supports efforts in literacy, curriculum, equipment, materials or staffing to provide the best and most equitable academic experience possible for students. 

redefinED atlanta’s mission is to transform Atlanta into a city where every student in every community receives a great K-12 public education, and we help Black and brown students and under-resourced schools through grantmaking to help combat the gross underfunding of these communities. Since the beginning, grants have been a fundamental part of how we engage community and advocate for equity, and almost $20 million in grants have been awarded since our launch in 2016, funding critical areas—equitable systems & schools, school-level talent, and parent or caregiver and community mobilization. 

What Is an Education Grant, and What Are the Benefits?

Unlike loans, grants provide needs-based financial support that typically doesn’t have to be repaid. Grant funding can come from a variety of sources, including the federal government, state government, college or career school, private organization, or a nonprofit, like redefinED atlanta. 

Education grants are often used to help students whose communities were historically oppressed or under-resourced. They directly supply funding to classrooms that would otherwise not have access to necessary academic support or materials for their students. For Black and Brown students, grants can help repair the funding gap, increasing their opportunities and improving their overall educational experiences. “Additional funding should help to attract highly qualified teachers, improve curriculum, and fund additional programs,” states CAP

How We Make an Impact With Education Grants

We believe family and community involvement leads to a better education and a stronger Atlanta Public School system. redefinED atlanta invests in schools and communities through our Family and Community Engagement (F.A.C.E.) grants—designed to support schools, helping them establish and strengthen their community relationship building efforts throughout the school year. 

We provide the technical support needed to grantees to help them plan and prepare to organize, mobilize, or educate families or community members on the issues the school, and therefore, their children, are facing. These efforts establish relationships and trust that brings more people together to tackle those challenges and create more equitable learning environments.

How Parents/Guardians and the Community Can Get Engaged 

Active parent or caregiver and community engagement are essential to establish support for every K-12 student. You have more of an impact on your child’s education than you realize. Whether it’s signing up for coalition updates, attending an event, or advocating for change within the larger community and with the school board, your voice has power and you can use it to change the public school system for the better. 

Join our growing collective of parents, educators, community leaders, and philanthropists dedicated to transforming Atlanta into a place where every student in every community has access to a great K-12 public education.

Milestones Results Serve as a Call to Action for Atlanta

In August, the Georgia Department of Education released 2021 Milestones test scores based on assessments administered amid the pandemic in spring 2021. As predicted in the report we commissioned with Learn4Life, the results showed Atlanta Public Schools (APS) students’ progress continued to decline, especially during the pandemic, particularly among students of color and students from low-income households. Even with the caveats of low student participation and limited comparability, these results underscore what we have known to be true for some years now. There must be a greater sense of urgency and a different course of strategic actions to support all APS students.

Overall, APS student proficiency rates show a drop of 1% in ELA and 7% in math1. Still, this statistic is misleading as only 34% of APS students in grades 3-8 participated in GA Milestones testing last year, and less than 20% of APS high school students participated in End-of-Course Georgia Milestones testing2. A more significant picture emerges in reviewing this analysis that examined individual data from students who participated in Milestones testing in both 2019 and 2021. When we compare proficiency levels for the same students pre-pandemic to today, on average, there is a 9% drop in ELA for Black students and an even more significant 18% drop in math1. We see a similar magnitude of learning loss for students experiencing poverty, with a 9% drop in ELA proficiency and a 16% drop in math proficiency

After reviewing this year’s scores, I immediately thought of our August 2019 blog, A bolder path forward: Reflections on accelerating Milestones progress. In 2019, the English Language Arts (ELA) proficiency rate was below 40%, and the proficiency gap between Black and white students was 58.8%. We now know the pandemic’s impact on student learning offsets their progress. It also sparked a renewed commitment from education stakeholders to support the district in its mission to make sure every student will graduate ready for college, career, and life.

So, what do we know?

  • We know the decline in proficiency rates does not include scores for students who opted out of taking the milestones in 2020 due to the pandemic. 
  • We know that when comparing the test-taking population from the previous test (2019) to the recent test (2021), you are comparing two very different populations.
    • The makeup of test-takers in 2021—56 percent Black, 30 percent white—was also very different from that of test-takers in 2019—74 percent Black, 15 percent white.1
    • In 2021, only 34 percent of students in grades 3-8 took the End-of-Grade assessment, and less than 20 percent of high school students took the End-of-Course assessment.2
  • We know that even if more students took the test, we’d still have no way of knowing if the scores would be higher and that we can’t effectively compare 2019 and 2021 data.

With what we know, I’m inclined to agree with DOE Deputy Superintendent Allison Timberlake, “If we did have everyone test, my hypothesis would not be that the scores would be higher. I think they would be a little lower.”  

Now – where do we go from here?

To address the pandemic’s adverse impact on student learning, in her blog post announcing the results, APS’ Superintendent Herring referenced the three-year, three-part APS Academic Recovery Plan. The three parts are:

  1. Identifying academic challenges and opportunities,
  2. Mitigating learning loss through an expanded summer program, and
  3. Requiring intervention classes at all schools 

Some of these promising ideas were implemented before, notably expanded summer programming. With the limited impact of past approaches and the prevailing challenges presented by the pandemic, there is still a need for urgent and compassionate action. We know it will take years to recover, and our goal needs to be larger than simply reversing the pandemic learning loss. Pre-pandemic, we had some of the most significant opportunity gaps in the country. We need to look beyond recovery and forge a path forward to rethink, redesign, and reshape what teaching and learning in schools can be for our Black and Brown children. What we had before hasn’t worked and was not designed to work in the first place. 

Our team at redefinED atlanta works to support and build momentum for progress in K-12 public education so that Atlanta is a place where every student has opportunities, well-being, and self-determination through access to a great K-12 public education. Though the data regarding APS students’ ability to read and write on grade level is less than perfect, it further reveals the urgency elevated by the release of United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child-Well Being Index in 2017, and the mandate to ask, “How are the children?” Again, it calls us to check in about where we are in our journey to build the beloved community that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. defined for us more than 60 years ago.

Over the next four years, redefinED atlanta pledges to grow more advocates for positive change in K-12 public education and work in and with the community to advocate for equity. To learn more about our commitments to the Atlanta community, sign-up to receive our upcoming publication, ARISE: Our Roadmap to 2025. Already a subscriber? You’ll receive notice when the report is published.

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