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KU News Release

August 19, 2005
Contact: Todd Cohen, University Relations, (785) 864-8858

KU Center for Research on Learning wins $9.3M grant to help Topeka students

LAWRENCE -- The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning has received a federal grant worth nearly $9.3 million over six years to help students in Topeka Public Schools prepare to continue their education beyond high school.

The grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Education Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR-UP) program, will provide more than $1.5 million a year for the Pathways to Success project. Jim Knight, KU research associate, is the project's director.

Beginning this fall, Pathways to Success staff will work with sixth- and seventh-grade students in all six Topeka middle schools. The project will include one instructional coach per school, who will work with classroom teachers to improve the quality of instruction; a telementoring coordinator for the district, who will use e-mail and the Internet to connect students to mentors around the world; and additional teachers, who will work directly with students on their reading skills.

" The grant allows us to hire a reading teacher for each middle school to provide support for students who are behind in their reading ability," Knight said.

The reading program will be based on teaching methods and materials developed by KU-CRL over the past 27 years. Teachers' specific responsibilities will be determined in partnership with district administration. The partnership with the district and the support of Topeka Superintendent Tony Sawyer are key features of the Pathways to Success work.

" We get to work with a superintendent who really supports the project and who is committed to collaboration, and that really enhances our ability to make a difference," Knight said.

The Pathways to Success project also includes a new family-school coordinator and 20 tutors for each school.
Knight describes the role of the family-school coordinator as a connection with the community.

" If students are falling behind, the family coordinator invites parents into the school to discuss ways to help students be more successful," Knight said. "When a student starts to falter, parents know right away, and together with the coordinator they can start to problem-solve to ensure that their student turns things around right away."
The coordinator will keep parents involved in their children's education and make parents and students aware of available services that may benefit students.

The 120 Pathways to Success tutors will work with students after school in tutoring centers set up in each middle school. The centers will follow a "strategic tutoring" model developed by KU-CRL, in which tutors help students with their immediate needs -- completing a homework assignment, for example -- while at the same time teaching students the skills they need to complete similar assignments independently in the future.

The new Pathways to Success project builds on the success of two previous GEAR-UP grants directed by Knight. The first began in 1999 and supported the Pathways to Success project in three Topeka middle schools. The second, which began in 2000 and which is entering its sixth and final year, added support for another middle school. All three of the grants follow groups of students through their middle school and high school years, so the sixth- and seventh-grade students involved in the new Pathways to Success project will continue to receive support from the project until they graduate from high school.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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