By Kallie Sulanke—
Muncie, Ind.—The Community Foundation of Muncie and Delaware County awarded $235,126 to Muncie Community Schools through the Successful Schools Fund in 2019 and 2020. Teachers and administrators across the school system accessed various professional development through this funding, including direct training in specialized teaching methods and access to online subscription training services.
The Board of Directors of The Community Foundation established the Successful Schools Fund in May 2018 following the Indiana Legislature’s landmark decision to give Ball State University control of Muncie Community Schools. The Foundation Board would use the Successful Schools Fund to support the partnership between the university and the school system with an investment of up to $200,000 over three years for professional development opportunities for certified staff. Board members, along with other community members, made personal contributions to the Successful Schools Fund.
Foundation staff worked closely with Muncie Community Schools teachers and administrators to ensure the program meets the most pressing needs and will have a lasting impact on students.
At the end of the 2018-2019 school years, administrators requested that a portion of the funding be directed to provide an expanded number of elementary school teachers training in Orton-Gillingham. Muncie Community Schools began training in this approach in 2017. Orton-Gillingham is a highly structured approach that breaks reading and spelling down into smaller skills involving letters and sounds and builds on these skills over time. Educators use sight, hearing, touch, and movement to help students connect and learn the concepts being taught. Through the fund, 65 teachers and elementary administrators participated in paid training during the summer. Another four teachers received advanced training and are working to become certified in teaching the approach. They began utilizing the new approach in their classrooms immediately. At this time, administrators also requested a portion of the funding to provide stipends to teachers who participated in a district-wide subscription to online training for all teachers called K-12 Boost.
The Innovation and Strategic Plan for Muncie Community Schools expressed that professional learning is essential for the school system’s advancement. They utilize professional learning opportunities that are student-centered and reflect the direction of their foundational pillars. In September, Muncie Community Schools requested the remainder of the funding for additional professional development opportunities, including training in Fountas and Pinnell, iReady, National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), and Schoology.
“Over the spring and summer of 2020, we focused our professional growth on our new elementary reading curriculum, common benchmark assessment, teacher effectiveness rubric, and the continued implementation of our Learning Management System,” said Chuck Reynolds, Associate Superintendent for Muncie Community Schools. “Without the generous support the Community Foundation and the Successful School Grant, we would not have been able to offer these robust opportunities to support our staff and students.”
Muncie Community Schools launched Fountas and Pinnell, a newly adopted reading curriculum. This new curriculum required extensive preparation and professional development to ensure a successful rollout. A team of Muncie Community Schools teachers from each grade representing every elementary school worked with a literacy consultant to prepare the first nine weeks of lessons for all teachers. Once those were complete, teachers reviewed the lessons and made adjustments for implementation.
This summer, Muncie Community Schools trained all kindergarten through eighth-grade math and English teachers on our new common benchmark assessment, iReady. The assessment is an adaptive evaluation tool that is aligned with Indiana academic standards. While the assessment is only given three times per school year, the supplemental resources that accompany the evaluation tool are personalized for each student to maximize student academic growth all year.
Additionally, last spring and summer, Muncie Community Schools offered professional growth opportunities for our new teacher evaluation rubric from the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET). Through the NIET framework, we have a reinvigorated process for teaching excellence that focuses on research-based instructional practices and building a collaborative learning community and a reflective culture.
Finally, Muncie Community Schools recognized the need for the continued development of blended learning experiences for their students. They launched Schoology, a Learning Management System, three years ago, but the impacts of COVID increase the impotence of utilization at all grade levels. The sessions offered will ensure our students can receive high quality, personalized instruction even if the schools are forced to transition to at-home learning.
About The Community Foundation of Muncie and Delaware County, Inc.
The Community Foundation of Muncie and Delaware County, Inc. encourages philanthropy, assists donors in building an enduring source of charitable assets, and exercises leadership in directing resources to enhance the quality of life for residents of Muncie and Delaware County. Since 1985, community members and businesses have helped the Foundation grow our endowment to $65 million. Using the earnings on the endowment, the Foundation distributes grants to nonprofit organizations, including scholarships to support students through post-secondary education. To date, the Foundation has awarded more than $56 million to enhance the quality of life of the residents of Muncie and Delaware County.