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Gates Foundation awards Mabton School District additional grant money; Granger receives money also

Despite a 93 percent Hispanic population, many of whom are migrant and miss school at different times throughout the year due to seasonal work, Mabton High School graduated 94 percent of its senior class and 82 percent went to four-year colleges last year, Superintendent Sandra Pasiero-Davis said.

It's that kind of progress, she said, that allowed Mabton to apply for an extension to a five-year grant awarded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The awarded extension, announced Wednesday, will give the district an additional $386,560 to invest in teaching students applicable skills; what Pasiero-Davis called "meaningful learning."

She said that kind of learning, beyond simple memorization, helps students become better prepared for college.

This means that students will be more accustomed to what college classes require and students won't have to take remedial classes when they do go off to college.

"Based on our past performances, the vast majority (of students) persevere and finish school," Pasiero-Davis said. "However, not all of our kids are accepted into college."

The grant money will be used to help train teachers to teach more effectively. Pasiero-Davis said research-based strategies, coaching and community involvement are used to help both teachers and students.

Additionally, she said the district tries to get students' parents to send the right message to their children.

"We know mom and dad are extremely powerful voices," Pasiero-Davis said.

Granger School District has also received $45,000 as part of the District Improvement Assistance Plus Program.

Granger Superintendent Tim Dunn said the money, which was given to five school districts that submitted spending plans to the state, comes partially from the Gates Foundation through the state.

He said accountability is built into the system. The school district can't just use the money for whatever it chooses.

Dunn said the money will be used for things like staff and teacher development and improving relationships with parents by having parent nights.

Not all the money, however, has been spoken for. Dunn said there's a lot of leeway in how the money will be used.

Dunn's understandably excited about what has been accomplished in Granger.

"I'm proud of the efforts of everybody," he said.

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