Multi-Million Dollar Grant Set for RHS

January 12, 2015
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To grow award-winning grapes, one must cultivate a vineyard for many years before the best results emerge from the vine, and in that spirit, the Revere Public Schools landed a multi-million dollar grant on Tuesday from the Nellie Mae Foundation that will aim to plant choice seeds of success for the district’s future.

Revere was the only school in eastern Massachusetts to land one of the five awards granted to New England Schools. In total, Revere; Pittsfield; Meriden, CT; Hartford, CT; and Portland, ME will split $16 million over the next three years to be models for radically transforming how students learn and teachers teach.

While specifics of the grant were not immediately available, it is expected that Revere would receive around $1 million per year – or a total of $3 million. Seed money from that sum could arrive in the district as soon as this month.

The money in large part, Superintendent Paul Dakin and Revere High Principal Lourenco Garcia said, will go toward teacher training at all levels and some student initiatives. The outcome is expected to speed up the transformation into what is being called flipped-learning – a term that seeks to do away with the format of a teacher lecturing to passive students.

“What we’re trying to achieve is a philosophical shift in what a teacher does and what a student does,” said Dakin. “When I was in school, I absorbed knowledge from the teacher, regurgitated it to the teacher and was graded on that. I memorized the Periodic Table and if I got it right, I got 100 percent. We don’t need kids to memorize the Periodic Table anymore. It’s hanging on the wall; they can look at it or find it. We want them to know how to work the Periodic Table and do something amazing with it – both individually and as a partner on a team in collaboration.”

Said Garcia, “This is a model that requires kids not to be on the receiving end of knowledge and absorbing it up, but instead being in charge of how they will acquire knowledge, using the resources available to get that knowledge and knowing how to act truly as a decision maker.”

Mayor Dan Rizzo said he is glad to see the schools preparing for the future in the midst of what, right now, is great success.

“This grant will allow teachers to continue honing their skills that have led Revere High School into being a model for 21st century education,” said the mayor. “Last year, Revere High School outscored the state average on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test, and their dropout rate fell to 2.1 percent while its attendance rate climbed to 95 percent – averages higher than within the district and even the entire state. Their adoption of a blended learning environment has led to these incredible results and I look to even further innovation and success with the implementation of this new grant program.”

The grant will be focused primarily at the high school, but Dakin and Garcia announced on Tuesday that it would be a district-wide initiative and teachers throughout the district would receive training and professional development.

That is because district officials and the Nellie Mae Foundation do not anticipate this to be an overnight transition.

“It will take a while for students to get used to so much free thinking and decision making on their own,” said Dakin. “We will have to start that now at the middle schools because we probably haven’t prepared the completely the current juniors and seniors for that. It will be an evolutionary process and won’t be done overnight. That’s why this grant has pledged substantial money and significant time. The best work we’ll see come out of this grant will be in years five, six and seven. It’s then that we’ll reap the true benefits of this tremendous change.”

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