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Grant Monies helping Corona-Norco Schools

Corona-Norco and Hemet unified school districts will get federal stimulus grants in the Investing in Innovation program.

Programs that teach Corona-Norco students to write and help them write more will be expanded with a $5 million federal grant the district will receive over five years.

Hemet Unified School District is a partner to receive $800,000 over four years to focus on high-need students in their first year of high school.

The grant applications are among 49 finalists rated the highest nationwide out of 1,700 applicants, according to the U.S. Department of Education announcement.

Both applications involving Inland districts already have the local matching funds required for the grants to be awarded.

Corona-Norco intends to use the money to expand its Step up to Writing curriculum and other writing programs already in use by some teachers. An online program is envisioned too.

Assistant Superintendent Thomas Pike said most of the money will go to train more teachers in the best writing instruction and add technology.

“This identifies the best practices we’ve used so far and expands them,” Pike said. “I think this is a great kudo to all of our teachers and curriculum and instruction staff.”

Hemet is a partner with two districts in Maine in a project by Search Institute in Minneapolis. Called Building Assets — Reducing Risks, BARR, it seeks to promote good and healthy behaviors and reduce truancy; drug, alcohol and tobacco use; academic failure; and disciplinary problems.

BARR’s goal is to turn around low-performing schools and help 7,500 students in Minnesota, Maine and Hemet.

The Investing in Innovation grants are typical of the current federal administration’s approach to education, Pike said. They identify programs that work and then fund them so they will expand to other places to benefit more children.

Writing test scores of Corona-Norco students learning English as a second language, students from poor families and students with disabilities lag 20 percent to 60 percent behind the overall scores, the district said in its grant application.

To close that gap, district leaders want to add technology to give teachers quicker feedback on what students need to write better.

At the high school level, teachers identified writing mechanics, grammar and use of academic vocabulary as students’ weaknesses. The grant would help the district develop online lessons and courses to teach those priorities.

Grant money will also add Discovery Education’s audio-visual programs before students write on topics.

Teachers would attend training and get support to use the new programs, too.

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