Issaquah Schools Foundation donations make a big impact in Issaquah classrooms
October 15, 2013
By Neil Pierson
NEW — 10:45 a.m. Oct. 15, 2013
At Discovery Elementary School, fourth-grade students recently huddled around plastic bins filled with sediment and conducted science experiments about water flow.
It was a simple lesson, but one that might not have been possible without private funding.
Each of the 15 elementary schools in the Issaquah School District has received money to improve its science curriculum from the Issaquah Schools Foundation, a nonprofit organization. It’s just one of dozens of programs ISF assists every year at all grade levels.
Discovery Principal Tera Coyle said curriculum upgrades immediately impacted reading test scores last year, the first year of implementation. She expects the same for writing assessments, as teachers will get a boost this year for professional development in that area.
“Our science scores have also gone up substantially,” Coyle said, “and I do believe it’s because the kids are getting terminology, they’re getting hands-on experience, but yet they’re also being held accountable to write about their science experience. They have science journals that they record their data in.”
ISF is in the middle of its annual All in for Kids fundraiser, which seeks to close the gap between what the state provides for basic education and what students need for a high-quality education.
The organization’s goal for 2013 is $440,000, and it had raised roughly 40 percent of it as of last week, Development Director Lynn Juniel said.
ISF will mail donation requests this month to all district families and past donors, and Juniel said she expects about 200 volunteers to help with a three-night pledge drive over the phone in November. The foundation donates $25 to every high school student who works the phones, and it becomes a fundraiser for many school clubs.
“I know a lot of people in the community love to hear the kids call,” Juniel said. “We also know that all the kids need money, so we’re happy to cut those checks for them.”
Technology is an area ISF tends to focus on, Juniel said. It has provided $6,000 to each of Issaquah’s high schools for improvements in science, technology, engineering and math. Skyline High School’s rocketry club was able to attend a national competition last year, and robotics instruction is happening at every middle school and high school.
“Those are the skills that our kids are going to need to succeed in the global society,” Juniel said.
Music programs have also been targeted for improvements, said Robin Callahan, ISF executive director. The group made a $100,000 investment this year in middle school and high school band classes. Much of the money is replacing old instruments. ISF will help orchestras next year, and visual arts programs in the 2015-16 school year.
Callahan said there’s a strong correlation between students having access to music and their success in areas like math and reading.
“We know that this is something students find their home in, and they find their connection to school through the arts,” Callahan said.
One of the more successful ISF-funded programs is the Volunteers of Issaquah Changing Education. VOICE brings mentors into classrooms to help with a wide range of tasks. Callahan said ISF is looking for more help — she expects to have 350 mentors by the end of the 2013-14 year, but that would still leave about 100 students without a mentor on the waiting list.
Coyle said VOICE has made a difference at Discovery. Many of the volunteers there are high school students from nearby Skyline and Eastside Catholic. Discovery’s continuing improvement plan looks for ways to help boys match the performance levels of girls, and VOICE is one way to accomplish that.
“They can have a strong male figure that’s a high school student, and that’s highly motivating for these boys to come in and work side by side with them for an hour every week,” Coyle said.
There’s a laundry list of items for every school to fund, and Coyle said she would like to see continued help in acquiring books. At Discovery, classrooms have their own libraries that target specific reading levels, but the selection can be fairly limited.
Juniel said ISF is looking to help with those types of needs.
“We don’t forget the basics,” she said. “The year before last, we helped the district with the reading curriculum adoption. Their goal is to have every child reading well by third grade.”
How to help
Donate to this year’s All in for Kids campaign on the Issaquah Schools Foundation website at www.isfdn.org.