Cheney Free Press -


By Paul Delaney
Staff Reporter 

Grant designed to help students become college-ready


Improving the path to and through college is the goal of how a nearly $150,000 College Spark Grant that Eastern Washington University has received will be utilized.

EWU will partner with Community Colleges of Spokane and K-12 school districts in the greater-Spokane region to improve the alignment of curriculum and assessments with each other and to the Common Core State Standards.

“The goal is to have students entertain a different mindset,” Barbara Alvin, EWU Mathematics Department chair said.

There’s a multi-pronged focus to the program. It will include increasing the number of students who take and pass algebra by the eighth grade. It will also attempt to decrease the number of middle school students who trigger early warning indicators of trouble in school: five or more absences per semester; course failure; suspension or expulsion.

Finally, the grant requires hiring a facilitator/consultant to help coordinate and organize meetings between instructors in math and language arts from high school, community college and at the university level.

“The College Spark grant will allow high school teachers and college professors to align curriculum around the rigorous expectations of the Common Core State Standards,” Wendy Watson, director of the Secondary Curriculum at Spokane Public Schools said in a news release. “The goal is for students to transition seamlessly from high school to postsecondary coursework without the need for remediation.”

Decreasing the number of students who require remedial education in college and increasing the number of students who earn their first college-level credit in English or math are other outcomes.

“The way that we’re going to try to do so, is create opportunities for instructors in high school, community college and Eastern to work together to have a better understanding across all sectors, not just high school,” Alvin explained.

The consultant has already had success on a much larger scale, Alvin said. She’s helped align language arts and math faculty from high schools, community colleges and universities from a handful of states outside the Northwest.

The various levels of educators have already met and have begun the process, Alvin said. “They broke into math, language arts and administrative groups. The biggest thing it did was it got us talking to one another.”

Alvin stressed, “The effort here is to work together across sectors, that we aren’t trying to tell anyone in other sectors what to do.”

The annual Community Grants Program focuses on working with low-income students in middle, high school and college by funding new practices that help students be college-ready and transition successfully to college.

Since 2005, College Spark Washington’s Community Grants Program has awarded more than 100 Community Grants totaling $14 million.

For information, contact Barbara Alvin, EWU Mathematics department chair at or 359-2203.

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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