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District of Columbia Schools to Devote $5 Million to Student Satisfaction

By guest blogger Christina A. Samuels

Principals in the District of Columbia school system will get an extra incentive in the 2014-15 school year to develop programs to make their students happy, thanks to a $5 million grant program the school district is creating centered on student satisfaction. 

About 78 percent of students in the 45,500-student district said they liked school, according to a survey conducted last year of students in grades 3 through 12, said schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. The system wants to get that number up to 90 percent by 2017. 

This grant will be one step to doing that, Henderson said during a dial-in news conference Tuesday. "I want students to love going to school," she said. 

This money is a second round of a grant program the city calls Proving What's Possible. The first round, in spring 2012, required schools to compete for $10 million for programs centered around "time, talent, and technology." Fifty-nine schools received funding, which paid for student laptops and extended-day programs, among other items. This time around, the grant program is not competitive; all of the district's 111 schools will instead be awarded about $100 per student on top of their normal funding, in order to create programs to boost student happiness.

Many ideas might fit the bill, Henderson said. Students who were unhappy with school complained about everything from the food to school cleanliness to peer-to-peer interactions, she said. The central office is working on the elements under its own control, such as food and janitors. But principals might use the money for anti-bullying programs, extracurricular activities, field trips, or other programs that will engage children. 

The school system doesn't yet know what its total budget is going to be for fiscal 2015, because the mayorally-controlled system has not yet received its budget documents from the mayor's office. The fiscal 2014 budget for District of Columbia schools was about $656 million. However, Henderson said she was making the commitment to the student satisfaction program so that principals could start planning with students and parents. 

"Every parent in this city wants their child's school to be a place where they can explore, where they can feel safe and supported, and where they can thrive," she said.

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