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New Federal Grant Aims to Help Schools Boost Noncognitive Skills

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By Alyson Klein. Cross posted from Politics K-12.

Noncognitive skills are all the rage these days and now the U.S. Department of Education is getting in on the action.

The Obama administration has created a new competitive grant program called "Skills for Success" aimed at helping middle school kids to develop strengths like grit and resilience and to adopt  "growth mindsets" (the new buzzword for believing that you can make progress in a tough subject, instead of just throwing up your hands and saying "I'm bad at math." Or writing. Or whatever.)

School districts who are interested in pursuing the grants will have to address two main areas in their applications (or "absolute priorities" in federal register speak). They must pitch projects that build on existing programs aimed at beefing up students' non-cognitive skills, and their programs have to support high-needs students (including low-income kids or traditionally low-performing populations, such as students in special education or English Language Learners.)

The grant program is financed at just $2 million, which is basically peanuts as far as the Education Department's budget is concerned. The awards will likely range from $400,000 to $600,000, which means there will likely only be four or five winners. But presumably, if this competition goes well, the administration could ask Congress for more money to continue and grow the program.   

Interested applicants will have to get their paperwork soon. The deadline for the program is July 29.


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