Sacramento-area school districts win millions in grants

Sacramento-area students may have a better chance of becoming college- and career-ready because of $21 million in state grants awarded to local districts last week.

A regional consortium of small school districts across seven counties, known as CRANE, the Capital Region Academies for the Next Economy, was awarded $15 million on Friday. In addition, Elk Grove Unified and Sacramento City Unified teamed up to apply for and win a $6 million award.

Career Pathways Trust Grants help districts link learning to college and careers by establishing partnerships with businesses and colleges. The relationships help schools to build curriculum, bring in professionals and offer work-related internships, among other things.

“We are thrilled to get both grants – the CRANE grant for the region and the Sacramento City and Elk Grove grant,” said David Gordon, Sacramento County schools chief. “We have a tremendous opportunity to expand programs in a collaborative way.”

The local grants were among 40 awarded from 123 applications. Grantees won four-year grants of either $600,000, $6 million or $15 million from a $250 million competitive grant program that is part of the state’s 2013-14 budget.

CRANE is made up of four community college districts and 22 school districts that include 70 high schools with a total of 84,000 students. The organization is led by the Sacramento and Placer county offices of education in collaboration with NextEd, a nonprofit that develops partnerships among business, education and government.

Some of the CRANE districts will start new programs, while others will expand existing programs, Gordon said. NextEd will act as a clearinghouse in connecting businesses with schools and helping to build curriculum for school programs that meet industry standards.

Sacramento City Unified and Elk Grove Unified will use their grant award to improve existing programs, said Theresa McEwen, interim director of high school redesign at Sacramento City. “We have the same vision,” she said. “We want them to graduate ready for college and career.”

The money for their program, Capitol Academies and Pathways, will help them to expand internships, bring in speakers, increase mentoring and offer more job-shadowing opportunities, McEwen said.

“It will deepen our program and allow us to build even stronger relationships,” said Elk Grove Superintendent Steven Ladd. “We will work with businesses to see what they would like to see in the career academy as far as rigor and skills.”

Teachers also will get the benefit of observing on-the-job professionals working in fields related to their instruction, McEwen said. She said some teachers have told her that they haven’t worked in the profession that they are teaching. “We ask them to provide authentic experiences, but they have never seen it,” she said.

The districts also will be working with local colleges and universities to ensure students are ready for college and that there is support for students during the transition.

“I think we are ready to go,” Gordon said. “We are just thrilled to have the opportunity to do it.”

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