WASHINGTON, Oct 3 – The following news article is on a U.S. Department of Education grant announced by Cong. Smith, and ran in the The Asbury Park Press Oct. 3, 2012:

Lakewood, Asbury Park School Districts Focus of Grant

Improving teacher and principal quality in Lakewood, Asbury Park and two other districts is the focus of a $39 million federal grant awarded to Rutgers University  and officials say the grant will help jump-start school reform measures in those districts.

“It will ensure higher quality instruction for all students,” said Laura Winters, interim Lakewood schools superintendent.

”We want every child to have a highly effective teacher in front of them.”

The grant, called the Teacher Incentive Fund, is one of 35 U.S. Department of Education grants awarded across the country to improve educator performance.

In addition to Lakewood and Asbury Park, the grant also covers the ”high need” districts of Hillside and North Plainfield.

The program is designed to achieve “school reform at the very core,” said Linda Reddy, the grants project director at Rutgers.

”We are going to reward teachers and principals for being very effective. We want to support teachers and promote effectiveness.”

The grant includes $7.8 million for the first two years. During the five-year program, $39.7 million will be allotted, officials said.

The grant is ”not about merit pay,” Reddy said. ”It is not about changing salary structure.”

The money will be used ”to support the needs of teachers and improve student achievement,” Reddy said.

The funds are dispersed proportionately based on the number of teachers in each district, she added.

But not every teacher gets a financial reward. And some of the money is for training teachers, too.

School district officials in Lakewood and Asbury Park are elated over what the grant will mean for student achievement.

“There is strong research that says providing a positive teacher incentive results in greater student achievement for the whole district,” said Dr. Denise Lowe, superintendent of the Asbury Park School District.

“For a parent, it means we will have the funding and support for training for teachers (and building principals) to be extremely effective.”

The first year of the grant is all about planning, added John Bernyk, coordinator of funded programs and resource development in the Asbury Park district. Receiving the grant ”required a lot of information gathering” on the part of the applicants, he said.

In Lakewood, Winters, the interim school superintendent, said the grant would be great for the students.

Lakewoods history includes a recent two-year lapsed teachers contract that was just settled and problems with many teachers leaving the district.

”The Lakewood School District is a high poverty school district looking to turn a corner,” Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said in a prepared statement. “This supportive federal funding will help enable the school board, administrators and teachers to work together in establishing better evaluation systems, professional development programs and appropriate means for rewarding and retaining effective teachers and principals so that Lakewood schools offer a better learning environment for our children.”

Margaret F. Bonafide: 732-557-5734; mbonafide@njpressmedia.com