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McKeel Academy of Technology Awarded $250,000 for Dissemination of Best Practices

Lakeland, FL (Feb. 28, 2013) - Soon teachers from McKeel Academy of Technology will be helping other charter schools across the state to improve their results in the classroom.  The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) has awarded the high-performing charter school a 2-year Instructional Best Practices Dissemination Grant of $250,000 to address FDOE’s strategic goal of improving student performance in the state’s charter school sector.  McKeel created the McKeel IBIS Project (Innovative Best Instructional Strategies) to assist and support Florida’s lower performing charter schools in the areas of technology integration and literacy.  The grant will give McKeel teachers the opportunity to share “ready to use” curricular, instructional and assessment activities with charter middle and high schools who scored C, D or F on the state grading system.  Currently there are 45 charter schools which are considered low performing and will be targeted for assistance.   Resources developed for the grant will also be available to teachers, instructional staff and leaders of all Florida public schools.

The McKeel IBIS Project is named after the Ibis, a white wading bird found throughout Florida that was the perfect mascot for this statewide project.  This bird is known for its legendary bravery during hurricanes and is even linked in Egyptian mythology to writing, wisdom and learning.  IBIS: Innovative Best Instructional Strategies
**Note:  9th Grade McKeel student Danielle Douglin participated in an art contest to create the bird drawing used in the logo.

For the McKeel IBIS Project, two McKeel teachers Mrs. Melissa Borchers and Mrs. Cathy Dyer were instrumental in writing the successful 126-page grant proposal with the help of Principal Dr. Linda Acocelli.  With the grant, McKeel is creating a statewide staff development program to share what has been successful for these teachers and was instrumental in helping the school achieve their high-performing status.  The project will include hosting a series of workshops on their campus with demonstrations of the best practices in action with students in the classroom. The grant supports Florida’s Next Generation PreK-20 Strategic Plan, Race to the Top and Just Read Florida.  

There will be additional workshops throughout the state and during educational conferences. McKeel will be focusing on learning gains in the areas of reading and writing, as evidenced by improved FCAT scores for the targeted charter schools.  The project has engaged the Tampa Bay Area Writing Project to offer in-service training to focus on the National Writing Project’s efforts to improve writing and learning through the leadership by training teachers during the day-long workshops. Through a partnership with Lumens Integration Inc., each targeted school which participates in a workshop will receive up to 3 Ladibug document cameras depending on their level of participation, and other technology-based tools in their own classrooms.  McKeel teachers currently use this document camera technology to encourage creative and interactive presentations during their lessons. 

Another important collaboration of the McKeel IBIS Project is with Chamilo Association, an international non-profit e-learning organization with a leading learning management system “Open Source LMS” to provide online resources for the targeted schools.  McKeel teachers will be able to upload lesson plans and host video webinars to assist teachers with implementation of the best practices.  The LMS will also encourage networking and sharing among the teachers and give them a venue for peer support.

McKeel will be working with the educational regional services organization in the three Rural Low- Income Schools (or RLIS) districts in Florida who will help host workshops in their areas and communicate through their newsletters and membership meetings as part of the project’s outreach plan.  The organizations are Heartland Education Consortium in Lake Placid, North East Florida Education Consortium in Palatka and the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium in Chipley.  Polk State College and the Florida Society for Technology in Education are also supporting the dissemination plan for statewide outreach to schools interested in the resources being developed.

The 2-year grant extends until 2015 with the first demonstrations starting with an April workshop.  McKeel Academy of Technology qualified to apply for the grant because they are identified as a high-performing charter school in 2011 by the Florida DOE based on their strong academic achievements and financial stability.  In 1996, McKeel Academy of Technology was the first secondary conversion charter school in the state and currently has 1137 students and 92 staff.

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