Google gives $1M to local schools
Grant to help district's needy with math will improve programs overall, official says
Google announced plans to give $1 million to local elementary and middle schools to fund math programs for struggling students.
"We are extremely grateful to Google for making it possible to embark on this new era of instruction and student achievement," said Craig Goldman, superintendent of the Mountain View Whisman School District.
A statement from the school district said the grant will be used to identify strategies for improving math instruction, train and support teachers, and provide ongoing oversight of programs developed using the Google money.
The grant is aimed specifically at those students in the district who need the most help in their math classrooms, according to Goldman and Heather Spain, manager of community affairs at Google.
"We are truly humbled by the company's generosity and sincere desire to help the district's neediest students," Goldman said.
The district's statement noted that math is a key indicator of future academic success and that the grant would go toward helping socio-economically disadvantaged students in Mountain View's primary and middle schools.
"We really want to help level the playing field in math and make sure that all the kids in the district are getting a strong foundation in math," Spain said.
The grant is part of a broader Google campaign geared toward improving science, technology, engineering and math education — often referred to as "STEM."
"There are a lot of jobs in technology, (and) there are going to be a lot of jobs in the future in technology," Spain said, explaining the importance of STEM education. "Not only that, but we will also all be using technology. We all need those skills."
Goldman said that socio-economically disadvantaged students in his district are lagging behind state math standards by two years in some cases.
"That's simply unacceptable," he said.
The first step in improving the math abilities of the district's poorer population is to overhaul how the subject is taught, Goldman said. Teachers will be trained over the summer in an "intense professional development lab." In that workshop, Mountain View Whisman instructors will teach math to children while receiving instruction and coaching in what he called "explicit direct instruction."
When those teachers return to school in the 2011-12 school year, their results will be tracked and recorded in an effort to understand what is working and what isn't.
The grant money will also be used to explore new technologies that will support math learning, Goldman said. "We hope that we will be able to partner with some of our local tech companies, including Google, to aid in that process."
In the long run, according to Goldman, the efforts of his district to boost math scores for socio-economically disadvantaged students will prove beneficial for all students in the district.
"We're trying to improve the way instruction happens in the classroom," Goldman said. "We're looking at improving both lesson design and lesson delivery."
Goldman said students with stronger math skills are more likely to grow up to be engineers and computer scientists — career paths Spain said Google is aiming to cultivate in "our own backyard."
Goldman supports that aim.
"We hope to be the kind of school district that delivers a qualified workforce," he said. "I think this is an important investment in making sure that local students are the type of students Google would one day want to hire."