Welcome to Iowa, the land of corn and opportunity! The newest opportunity: Funding for computer science in Iowa. Starting in 2021 high schools, middle schools, AND elementary schools must all offer computer science opportunities for their students. Thankfully, funding for those computer science opportunities is available!
Read on to find out step by step how to score up to $30k for your district and to give YOUR students the best chance at the future with Computer Science in Iowa.
First things first- The Computer Science in Iowa Curriculum and Professional Development Grants program website lives here and the grant application website is here. Make sure you register for an account and pull resources from your whole team to give everyone the best chance at success.
Step 1: Pick Your Grant and Fiscal Manager
Most state grants require a designated grant manager within the district that works in conjunction with the business office to oversee the management of the grant. This program is no different. Your grant manager is responsible for monitoring all project expenditures to ensure that funds are expended in accordance with the approved budget and timeline, and maintaining meticulous records. So make sure you pick someone who can make that happen easy peasy. This should also be the person who will be filling the twice-yearly reports. Your Fiscal Manager is responsible for filing the reimbursement claims and overseeing the budget.
Step 2: Be prepared!!
As with all grants, be prepared with your resources before you start the grant application in the system. Thankfully, the questions are available in advance (and below!) on the Iowa Department of Education website. Something important to remember is that you will fill out one application for all of the grade bands you’re applying for, so you may need to answer the same question for each grade band on one application.
Creating a document with these example questions answered in advance makes it easy to keep your information organized and apply ASAP. Why not use our template right here to get started? One of the questions in the curriculum section asks “How will the curriculum be sustained once grant funding expires” so be prepared to have an answer. This is an essential part of securing Computer Science in Iowa for your district. The grant applications are open until all funds are exhausted, but you have to spend the funds for curriculum and professional development by September 30th, 2022. So time is of the essence to bring awesome opportunities to your building.
Step 3: Be specific
Each district is able to ask for up to $10,000 in funds per grade band, adding up to $30,000 for all three grade bands. There are $3.7 million dollars to award, but the easier you can make the process, the more likely you are to secure the grant as well as reducing the chance of delays in the funds being delivered. When completing your application, be specific and succinct in each section. And the most important piece of advice, make sure you answer the question! My suggestion? Ask coworkers to read your submission before you finalize your application. The easier you can make it to understand for the grant committee the better. They will likely read through many applications. Make it easy for them to choose yours.
Step 4: Be detailed
The application for the grants includes the following sections: cover sheet-General Information, Minority Impact Statement, Applicant Contact Information, Demographic and Geographic Data, Narrative, and Budget. Make sure you’re prepared to answer each section as you prepare your grant application reference document.
Something else critical to remember is that the awarding committee will prioritize districts/nonpublic schools that do not currently offer Computer Science instruction, as well as prioritizing schools that will begin instruction in Fall 2022. So while applying earlier rather than later is important for securing your funds, attention to detail is also key.
Preparing for the sections
Cover Sheet-General Information
This section is easy and asks only for the general information about your district, things like name, address. Simple to fill out and very straightforward.
Minority Impact Statement
Pursuant to Iowa Code Section 8.11, all grant applications submitted to the State of Iowa have to include a Minority Impact Statement. The statement simply asks you if your proposal could have a disproportionate impact on minority persons, in a positive, negative, or neutral way. This helps the Iowa State Government examine how the dollars they are awarding are impacting minorities in Iowa. After determining if the impact is positive, negative, or neutral, describe the impact, state your rationale, and indicate which group is impacted.
Applicant Contact Information
Another easy one. You want to make sure the Department of Education knows how to contact you to deliver the great news when you are selected to be awarded! Make sure to also add anyone else who may be directly involved in the planning, management, or day-to-day operation of this grant. This is a great way to keep everyone on the same page.
Demographic and Geographic Data
This section will ask you for information about your district enrollment, percent of enrollment that qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, Percent of enrollment that are underrepresented students, and other data related to your district. Check out the Iowa State Department of Education website to find this information for your district!
This is the section where you write! Just remember, if you are applying for more than one grade band, to prepare different answers for each grade band you’re requesting in the grant application. Keep it simple silly and don’t forget to answer ALL of the questions
Need for project
- Is computer science instruction offered in this grade band?
- When do you plan to begin CS instruction funded through this grant? (this question is not found on the high school application)
- List the curriculum from the approved list you want to purchase or use.
- Grade level(s) to be impacted.
- Number of classrooms the curriculum will impact.
- Number of students the curriculum will impact.
- How will the curriculum be sustained once grant funding expires?
This question will require the most writing and discussion at the district level.
- Is aligned professional development for the selected curriculum being requested?
- Number of teachers expected to participate in this professional development? Type n/a if no professional development is requested.
- Total Curriculum
- Total Professional Development
This section is simple, which is not always the case for grants! For this application, there are only two categories and very rigid definitions for what is considered an acceptable expenditure. The categories are Curriculum and Professional Development. The only acceptable expenditures are the allowed costs to purchase and use the curriculum for the selected vendors on this website here!
The most important thing here is to know what your anticipated costs will be based on your number of students and teachers who will be impacted by the grant funds, and which vendor you will be using! The best way to make sure your numbers are right is to get a quote from your selected vendor before you apply.
Step 5: Implementation!
Remember, the goal of the program is to help Iowa school districts and accredited nonpublic schools with the cost of providing a high-quality computer science curriculum for students and aligned professional development for teachers. So that’s what you have to do, and thankfully, there is a myriad of resources to help you with that!
The ideal timeline is for teachers to begin professional development in summer 2022 and for classroom instruction to begin in fall 2022. So the implementation process allows for plenty of time for thoughtful, and deliberate implementation in all buildings for the benefit of all students.
Computer Science is understanding how and why technologies work, exploring whether and how technology could solve real-life problems, investigating procedures, creating solutions, and learning about computing systems, programming, data, networks, and the effects on society and the individual. Computer Science is learning how to create new technologies, rather than simply using them. This is an amazing and essential chance for all Iowa students to be the crest of the wave of future technology and Iowa as a hub of innovation.
Step 6: Report back!
We’re all educators. We know that timely and appropriate feedback is essential to any learning opportunity. Project evaluation is an important component of an approved project. Not only does the evaluation help determine whether the project is meeting its objectives, but the data gathered in the evaluation process may be important to others who will want to study the project or replicate it.
Grantees will complete five progress reports during the implementation process in order to provide information on how well your project design is working in achieving the goals you laid out when applying. This data helps mark roadblocks and obstacles you may encounter along the way for the next person who drives the road behind you.
What’s in the Progress Report?
Much like the application, the progress report asks for a narrative, as well as numerical data. Be prepared to provide a summary of how teacher professional development went, how instruction was impacted, and what (if anything) you would do differently next time. The logistical data asked for involves the total amount of grant dollars you’ve spent so far, as reported on the associated claim, and staff data.
What’s a Claim?
To receive reimbursement of your authorized expenditures you must submit a Claim via IowaGrants.gov. For the claim to be approved, make sure you maintain records identifying the source and application of funds for each budget line item. Only items listed in the approved grant are eligible for reimbursement. Remember, there are only two approved categories: Professional Development, and Curriculum. Claims should be filed twice per year and must be filed by the Fiscal Manager designated in the grant application. And you must submit a progress report and claim even if no costs were incurred or no activities took place during that time period.
In your claim, include as much information as necessary for Department staff to understand what it was you purchased and how the purchase relates to and supports your project goals. The easier it is to understand, the more quickly your reimbursement will be processed.
Dates to Remember!
Claim #1: July 8th for the period June 1, 2022 – June 30, 2022
Claim #2: October 14th for the period July 1 – September 30, 2022
Computer Science in Iowa
As of 2020 Iowa state law is now requiring high schools to offer at least one-half unit of high-quality computer science starting July 1, 2022. Middle schools must offer computer science instruction in either seventh or eighth grade and elementary schools must offer computer science instruction in at least one grade level starting July 1, 2023. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to not only bring a comprehensive computer science curriculum to your building but to support your educators with meaningful professional development that reduces the fear of teaching computer science and makes implementation simple and powerful. Without meaningful support, there is a chance of failure, and the cost of that failure is too high for Iowa’s future.