Eight things every new grant writer should know

If you’re new to grant writing, it can be an intimidating prospect. To help make the process a little easier, I’ve come up with a list of the Top 8 things every new grant proposal writer needs to know. These are …

(1) Grants are seed money for new projects or initiatives. Do not expect to find a large number of funders who want to give your district money to pay for ongoing teacher salaries or the rising cost of gas for school buses. Education grants are given to fund projects that meet an identified need and have specific outcomes, often related to students and their academic achievement.

(2) Know the difference between “need” and “want.” Make sure your project meets a specific need that you have identified and that can be supported with documentation. Wanting new technology because the neighboring district just got some will not make a convincing needs statement in your proposal!

(3) The “dogs that eat homework” also eat proposal sections. Make sure you plan ahead and give other people enough time to provide you with the information you will need for the sections of a proposal. Send them a memo outlining what you need and what they have agreed to supply–and give them a deadline. As the deadline approaches, gently remind them of their assignment.

(4) Be familiar with your district’s policies and procedures about submitting proposals. Does your school board have to approve your proposal before it is submitted? Do teachers have to get prior approval before starting to put a proposal together? Does your superintendent want to see a preliminary summary of the project before you start putting the proposal together? Does your district have other policies or procedures? You should know the answers to each of these questions before you get started pursuing grant funding. If there are no policies or procedures in place, develop them.

(5) Politics can play a role in the awarding of grant funds. If you don’t believe me, read this story from the May issue of eSchool News: “GAO: Rules were bent on education grants” (GAO: Rules were bent on education grants).

(6) Always give your business office a “heads up” about proposal submissions.

Ask your business office to play a role in the proposal process by either helping to develop the project budget or reviewing the budget that you have developed. Provide a copy of the grantee requirements (these are usually stated in the Request for Proposals) to your business office, so there are no surprises when you receive notification of your grant award.

(7) Spend the majority of your time conducting research, and hone your research skills. Unfortunately, there isn’t one magic web site you can visit that lists all of the possible funders and funding opportunities available. You have to identify key web sites to visit (OK, here’s one: eSchool News Online) and key eMail lists to join–and always keep your eyes and ears open for potential sources of funding.

(8) Create and maintain a large, impressive network. One of the keys to success in this field is having a network of proposal writing colleagues (who understand the frustrations of rejection and share the joy of getting an award), funders, program officers, legislators, and potential collaborative partners. Build this type of network quickly, and keep adding people to it as you go along–and you will reap many benefits in the months and years to come.

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Getting ready for emergencies just got easier

As lost children and long separations continue to haunt families in the aftermath of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina–and as a whole new season of hurricanes begins–emergency responders are urging parents and educators to plan better for disasters.

Children and school staff need to know how to reconnect with their families if emergency evacuations disrupt schools, close roads, down telephone lines, and overwhelm cell phone towers.

To help families, educators, and communities respond more effectively when disaster strikes, a New Jersey communications company has launched a new, low-cost service that loads many of the nation’s top emergency management resources into a single, user-friendly web site.

Called Ready-or-Not, the web site features an impressive array of content providers ranging from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to the Mayo Clinic and the National Next of Kin Registry.

Subscribers also can tailor-make the site to meet local or state needs and concerns. For example, the Louisiana Educators Association has included high-quality public service videos that help parents understand the importance of advance planning.

Tips range from creating a plan, protecting family records, and accessing parent and teacher resources, to dealing with pets, reconnecting with far-flung relatives, and supporting family members with disabilities.

Launched in April, the non-commercial service is designed to help parents and educators find available resources quickly and easily, according to Fred Campbell, managing director and founder of The Network IQ, the company that developed Ready-or-Not. According to Campbell, the idea for the site was inspired by the disastrous lack of communications and coordinated response before, during, and after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina.

“The was no reason New Orleans kids and their families had to be so devastated by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina,” said Campbell. “If there was time to give these storms names, there was time to get a response plan in action–and that did not happen.” Since schools typically play a critical role in most emergency response plans, linking all of the resources to the school or district web site might help raise community awareness regarding the need to plan, as well as speed parents’ access to needed services, school leaders say.

“What I like about the Ready-or-Not program is that it brings all the disaster preparedness, disaster response, and disaster recovery information together from so many different original sources,” said John Polomano, superintendent of the Bordentown Regional School District in central New Jersey. “It is ‘one-stop shopping’ with everything centralized for easy use.”

Bordentown’s Ready-or-Not web site includes local police, fire department, and emergency management information. Links to New Jersey state resources are also listed, along with national sites such as the American Red Cross and the National Weather Service.

The price is affordable for even the most cash-strapped schools and nonprofit organizations. A full-year subscription is only $279, while renewals are just $159. With federal officials urging more self-reliance and greater planning by individuals, families, and communities in Katrina’s wake–and in response to growing concerns regarding an impending pandemic flu–the affordable service comes at a critical time. While most educators have more questions than answers at this point in preparing for pandemics, terrorist threats, bioterrorism, and natural disasters, linking all available resources together in one parent-friendly web site is a good place to start.

“The school and the community are intrinsically tied together, so the more we can share the better,” Polomano said. “As word spreads about the great utility of the Ready-or-Not program, I think we will see many people who have no direct connection with Bordentown schools taking full advantage of the service.”

Campbell plans regular updates to the site as more information becomes available. “We are getting feedback that our approach may be a simple, common-sense addition to better risk management for school systems,” he said. Link: Ready-or-Not
http://www.ready-or-not.com

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“IT Conversations” offers recordings of interviews with IT experts

School IT executives and ed-tech enthusiasts, listen up: You might be interested in “IT Conversations,” a web site containing recordings of dozens of interviews, discussions, and debates with a number of IT experts and educators. Launched in June 2003 under the direction of recording engineer, sound editor, and IT executive Doug Kaye, the site collects interviews and panel discussions with big thinkers like Harvard Business School’s Clay Christensen, Amazon.com chief executive Jeff Bezos, and author Malcolm Gladwell. First-time visitors might want to begin by looking through some of the series listed on the site’s home page. Some of the issues addressed by these sessions include social innovation, technology development, and global security. Each interview also can be rated, giving you a helpful and time-saving tool for determining the usefulness of content. Users also can employ a search engine to locate various recordings of interest. The fee-based portion of the site offers personalized recommendations and an option to queue up audio programs for later listening.

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EPA issues new “Healthy School Environments Assessment Tool”

The new Healthy School Environments Assessment Tool (HealthySEAT), from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a software utility that can be customized and used by district-level staff to conduct voluntary environmental self-assessments of their school facilities. According to the EPA, the guidance included in the free HealthySEAT software can improve the health of students and staff by ensuring that all potential environmental and safety hazards in schools are being properly managed. Examples of school environmental hazards tracked by the tool include chemical releases, pesticide exposures, flaking lead paint, mold, other indoor air quality problems, and damaged asbestos-containing building materials. The EPA says its new tool can be used to track and manage information on environmental conditions school by school. EPA also has included critical elements of its regulatory and voluntary programs for schools, as well as web links to more detailed information. Districts can download HealthySEAT at no cost from the EPA web site.

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New federally funded special-ed web site launches

The National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) has launched a new web site that features the most recent documents from NASDSE’s Project Forum, which is funded by the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs. According to Project Forum, the aim of its new web site is to facilitate improved services to children and youth with disabilities by gathering and sharing information that supports changes to policy and practice at the national, state, and local levels. The site features a database of documents relevant to special-ed teachers and administrators, including the organizations’ yearly 15 hot topics in the special-ed field and policy analyses of those topics. The site also maintains, in collaboration with Regional Resource Centers, a national database of state laws, policies, and regulations that govern special education. According to NASDSE, the site distributes information that will contribute to better results for children with disabilities.

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Explore history topics using primary sources with this Smithsonian web site

“Smithsonian Source,” a history education web site from the Smithsonian Institution, offers primary-source materials and tools for using them in social-studies classrooms. The site’s resources are organized into six topic areas: Civil Rights, Colonial America, Invention, Native American History, Transportation, and Westward Expansion. Each section contains lesson plans and document-based questions arranged by grade level. The web site also provides tips for teaching with primary sources, such as how to help students analyze complex subjects, how to help students create graphic organizers to sort information, and how to compare and contrast information. In the Colonial America section, which was featured at press time, users can watch an anthropologist examine skeletons for clues about daily life in Jamestown or find lessons on the Boston Massacre, Pocahontas, the Stamp Act, patriot women, and more. Teachers and students can use questions that are built around primary-source documents to explore the clashing views of revolutionary colonists and loyalist colonists or examine the political, religious, economic, and social reasons for the American Revolution.

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Students become virtual astronauts in this web-based program from NASA

NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston offers a free, online educational initiative called the Virtual Astronaut Program. It’s an interactive, three-dimensional web site designed for students in grades 5-8 that integrates existing life-science research data and NASA educational products into a suite of instructional materials. Activities include a “Complete the Skeleton” game, in which students put together all 206 bones in the adult human body; a topography hunt in which students locate Earth’s landmarks as viewed from space; a lesson and quiz on plants in space; and much more. The site contains electronic activities, teacher’s guides, and teacher briefs that include space and life science content. Educator guides help teachers with lessons on how astronauts purify their water in space, as well as solar power, neuroscience, microgravity, and more. The site also provides several links to additional life and space science resources for educators.

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Pair up with this web site for help in teaching about genetics

Teachers looking for ways to teach about DNA and other topics in genetics and bioscience can turn to the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah’s web site. The site features several animations and activities for learning about DNA, cells, molecules, and other genetics topics. Site visitors can virtually build a DNA molecule, transcribe and translate a gene, and see why a firefly’s tail glows. Other activities include using DNA to solve a mystery, finding out how genetics is being used to save endangered species, and learning about stem cells, addiction, gene therapy, cloning, and genetically modified food. In the “Make a Mad, Mad, Mad, Neuron” activity, students build their own monster neural circuits and must identify the parts of each neuron before completing the activity.

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