The Katy ISD Education Foundation awarded $209,599 to teachers this year in its second ever grant cycle.
Foundation president Chris Crockett said she was very pleased with the amount the foundation raised during the 2013-14 school year and the quality of the applications.
"Overall, I would say that teachers presented applications with more developed ideas behind them this year," Crockett said.
The grants are meant to spur innovation on the part of teachers in the district, Crockett said. Teachers must make the application for the grants—instructional coaches and principals cannot make the requests. An individual teacher can request up to $1,000. A team of teachers can request up to $5,000, she said.
"It's also a great way for the community to support the great ideas that teachers have," Crockett said. "Business and community leaders get to help through the process of selection. They are showing what the community values."
Applicants must set out the goals of the project, identify how it supports the curriculum and provide a budget for anticipated costs of the project. If awarded, they must account for the items they purchase with the money, Crockett said.
The foundation received 91 applications and awarded 55 grants during the 2013-14 school year. During last year's application cycle—the foundation's first time awarding grants—the group received about a third as many applications and awarded about $88,000.
There were far fewer applications from secondary school teachers last year, Crockett said.
"This year we had a lot, particularly from high school teachers," she said.
Applications this year included a variety of Science Technology Engineering and Math grants, including a DNA kit for a high school science department, and a middle school project that integrated sophisticated graphing calculators with sensors on them.
Crockett said the foundation employs a three-step judging process.
Teachers turn in their application without identifying their campus, name, or other identifiable bits of information. The foundation's coordinators assign a control number to it and then remove the cover sheet. The application is then forwarded to the school district's technology and curriculum departments for initial review.
"The applications go to Curriculum and get checked off," she said. "If there is technology that they want, it needs to be signed off on by the tech department because they will support any new devices."
Once the applications are cleared, they are sent to a group of three or four readers—board members and other selection committee members. Each reads about 8-10 applications and scores them on a rubric. Afterward the selection committee gathers in a room and makes the awards.
The whole process is becoming more engaging because the teachers are already getting better at presenting a more complete vision of their ideas, Crockett said.
"Last year we saw people who wanted mostly technology but who hadn't really fleshed out the idea. This year the teachers did a better job on that."
The education foundation's grant development team hosted training workshops to help teachers convey their ideas on paper.
Crockett said these workshops have the two-fold benefit of producing better applications for the foundation's grants, while also providing important professional development opportunity for teachers.