Supplementing grant funds with crowdsourcing opportunities and asking teachers with strong technology skills to serve as “digital first responders” in schools are a couple ways to sustain educational technology-related initiatives supported by grant funding, Victoria Flint, an educational technology coordinator at Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District in Alaska, explains in EdSurge.
Before applying for grants, Flint recommends that school and district leaders ask themselves questions, such as: what is the short-term plan for using the grant money; what is the long-term plan for sustaining the objectives of the grant; how will the materials or tools purchased with the grant funds be maintained: will someone need to be hired, and once the grant funding expires, how will the educational goals be sustained?
She adds that it can be risky for schools or districts to use grant funds for personnel because it creates the challenge of who will do the work when the funds disappear.
Some of the most promising efforts to improve schools in recent years, provide teachers with professional learning opportunities and encourage educational innovation have been provided by grants from federal and state governments, foundations and nonprofit organizations. But once the funding source dries up, schools often return to the way they operated before the grant. For example, an evaluation of schools with federal School Improvement Grants, conducted by the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, noted that “the overall prospects for sustaining any improvements appeared to be fragile in most of these 12 schools.”
School leaders have to determine whether they are applying for grants for the money or whether the money might help to support efforts that are in alignment with the goals for their school or with plans that they intend to implement anyway. Strong leadership sometimes means not pursuing funding opportunities if it means taking a school off course or bringing in another new program that will fade away when the funding runs out. While grants can help schools and districts launch initiatives that they wouldn’t have been able to, it’s important for administrators to focus on building the skills of staff and faculty members to continue the improvements once the grants have expired.