EBR Schools & NYC Schools Receive Prestigious $3.5 Million Grant

Superintendent Sito Narcisse is elated to announce that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the East Baton Rouge Parish School System a $3.5 million “Research and Development Partnerships for Math Equity” grant for economically disadvantaged and minority students. The selection follows a rigorous six-month process among 17 qualifying school districts nationwide. New York City Schools was the only other district in the nation to be chosen and funded for the revolutionary program.

EBRPSS will be part of a 33-month innovative pilot program that will combine existing, collaborative research partners in an effort to develop new customized intervention models, data-tracking and teacher training for online student learning. The widely-reported learning gaps resulting from the Covid epidemic exacerbated long-standing education deficiencies across the country, and research shows that the disparity in mathematics most profoundly impacted Hispanic, Black and economically disadvantaged students.

“One of the greatest struggles our students face begins with their mindset before they walk into the classroom,” said EBRPSS Superintendent Sito Narcisse, Ed.D. “Just the idea of learning math can be a daunting and intimidating prospect for kids who may not have had effective foundational experiences, and many simply have developed an early negative perception and lack of confidence when it comes to greater comprehension as they matriculate through grade levels. This initiative will help us identify those causes and provide sustainable instructional strategies and bolster enthusiasm in math education for the entire country.”

The funds and resources for this pilot-program will provide a longitudinal analysis of digital learning tools and specific instructional practices to gauge which drivers of math-learning lend to successful student engagement and outcomes. That effort requires a broad scope of experts sharing wide-ranging data from concept and execution to results. One of the outstanding factors of the grant competition that separated EBRPSS from other districts was its long-time research and development partnerships with LSU & DreamBox Learning. The ability to comfortably align in a cross-functional, cooperative structure to target specific skill deficits and adjust teaching methods is vital to develop interventions in the existing gaps, and the existing partnerships will streamline this program.

“At DreamBox, we are driven by the singular belief that all students deserve access to high-quality learning opportunities, regardless of their race, gender, or zip code. This math equity initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will allow us to improve student outcomes and possibilities,” said Jessie Woolley-Wilson, CEO and President of DreamBox Learning®, the only dual-discipline solution rated ‘Strong’ by Johns Hopkins’ EvidenceforESSA.org in both mathematics and reading. “East Baton Rouge Parish Public Schools is a learning innovator with experience increasing student achievement quickly through programs such as DreamBox Math. Through this grant, we will learn even more about effective ways to unlock learning potential for all students.”

The project agenda intends to develop new technical research tools to create an upward trajectory in students’ math learning and provide local public access to successful data studies across the U.S. The partnership with the experts at LSU will be critical to framing these findings and sharing them as an open resource to all educational institutions and program designers.

“I would like to thank East Baton Rouge Parish School System for entrusting LSU Social Research & Evaluation Center with this important work along with the Gates Foundation for contributing to education equity for children in the Baton Rouge community,” said LSU Social Research & Evaluation Center Director Judith Rhodes. “I look forward to working with EBRPSS and DreamBox Learning to research and implement tools in the students’ lives to help them achieve their full potential.” 

The ultimate goal is to better understand which instructional resources and teaching practices best meet the needs and contexts of students to reach equitable outcomes and positive self-identity around mathematics as an imperative. These program partnerships and resulting developments will serve as an infrastructure to be reapplied on a national level and stands to reimagine and reinforce future generations of student confidence and positive math identity.

We are so proud to have been chosen to participate in such an important program and are very excited about the potential to provide a unique and extraordinary opportunity to increase the pace of innovation in tools and practices for the entire education landscape.

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