I write and implement a lot of grants. Grant funding is the lifeblood of ed tech these days, and with the stimulus round of EETT coming out, grants are much on many of our minds.
Grants aren’t all good, though. One of my own disappointments with many grants is the lack of sustainability. (This is really a concern with education as a whole, not just grant-funded projects.) Too many times, the program fizzles out toward the end of the grant, and the instructional benefits are completely gone by the next year.
Sometimes, though, programs are sustained beyond the grant and continue to benefit teachers and students alike.
So, what is the difference? Here are some readily identifiable characteristics that I’ve observed. As you read through these, think about projects you’ve done in the past and ones you’re contemplating for the future. What can you do to help drive your grant projects toward sustainability and success?
A grant that is not sustainable
(likely to fail)
- The program is planned by tech staff, not curriculum leaders and teachers.
- Instructional goals are not driving the project.
(This focus is on tech skills and gadgets, rather than how to read, write, do math, etc.)
- Technology equipment is the focus.
(Discussions begin with “We have 250 [tech gadget of your choice].” PD is focused on how to use [tech gadget of your choice], rather than how to improve reading, writing, math skills, etc.)
- There is little or no leadership buy-in.
(The principal is not visible at project activities and may not even know about the program.)
A grant that is readily sustainable
(likely to succeed)
- The program is driven by academic goals that are already in place and that reflect goals teachers are already trying to meet.
- There is more discussion of learning goals in language arts, math, science, social studies, etc. than of technology.
(This is easier if the focus of the program is on specific curriculum areas and grade levels and if PD addressed this. If you are addressing multiple areas, PD should be divided up accordingly.)
- There is strong leadership support.
(District curriculum and instruction staff and principals know about and visibly support the program.)
- PD is ongoing and in the classroom.
(In-classroom mentoring is much more effective than whole group traditional workshops.)
- There are mechanisms to develop internal support structures that can continue to provide support after the grant funding ends.
(These can include encouraging interested teachers to become mentors or starting a program to have students act as tech support aids.)