More than 3,000 students in the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools stand to improve their chances of graduating from high school and pursuing higher education, thanks to an $18 million federal grant that will allow tutoring, mentoring and other services for students from sixth grade through their first year of college.
On Tuesday, the University of Kansas announced that it received funding of $2.6 million per year for seven years from the United States Department of Education for work in the Kansas City, Kansas, schools.
Ngondi Kamatuka, director of the Center for Educational Opportunity Programs at KU's Achievement & Assessment Institute, said the partnership between the university and the school district would support the district's strategic plan while training future teachers.
“It's going to be a monumental task," Kamatuka says, "but hopefully we’ll make a difference and make sure that more than 65 or 70 percent of our students graduate from high school and go on to post-secondary education.”
Kamatuka says the effort will build on promising results from two Kansas City, Kansas, middle schools and high schools participating in a national program known as Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or GEAR UP. An "early warning system" will help identify students who need tutoring, mentoring, counseling and help building social and emotional skills, while the program also offers financial literacy and other training for parents, Kamatuka says.
"GEAR UP is a fantastic program, and we are thrilled to partner with KU to make sure our students are prepared to succeed in college and in their careers," says David Smith, chief of public affairs at Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools.
To carry out the work, Kamatuka says his team will hire between 60 and 70 students in the teacher education program at the KU School of Education.
"These are future teachers, so we want to give them an opportunity to start honing those skills working with a diverse student body, and Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools provide that opportunity," he says.
Professors and graduate students will also be involved, Kamatuka says.
The program will roll out gradually over upcoming semesters, he says, but he anticipated that the first activities will be underway in Kansas City, Kansas, schools by early December.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include David Smith's comment.
C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @cjjanovy.