Humble ISD Uses Federal ESSA Title IV, Part A Grant to Add IHT Heart Rate Monitors to Five Campuses
Sticking to a well-developed plan enabled Humble (Texas) school district Coordinator of PE/Wellness Helen Wagner to use her school district’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) grant allocation to strengthen her district’s wellness curriculum using IHT heart rate technology.
“I talk about things on the horizon, how I would grow our PE program by going beyond what people think of as a traditional PE class,” Wagner said. “I really felt like IHT, and I did all of the research on lots of products, helps visualize things for the students. The product also met priorities that were identified by our district comprehensive needs assessment.”
Wagner wanted to add the combination of IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitors and IHT’s Spirit Assessment Measures software, but she lacked the budget to purchase it on her own. She did more research, got familiar with ESSA, and Title IV, Part A in particular, and went to work.
Enacted in 2015, ESSA remains the single largest source of federal education funding. The full ESSA budget allocates $168 billion for its various programs. Title IV Part A provides funding for programs that meet several criteria as described in the Student Support and Enrichment grants:
- Support well-rounded educational opportunities;
- Safe and healthy students; and
- Effective use of technology
For the 2019-20 school year, $1.17 billion will be distributed to the states on a population-based formula. Each state then decides how it will distribute the funding to local education agencies. Most states use a formula to divide the money evenly across the local agencies while others require LEAs to apply through what amounts to a competitive grant program.
Once Wagner became familiar with ESSA funding and how much the Texas Education Agency allocated to Humble ISD, a large district adjacent to Houston, she put together a plan of action and stuck to it.
Defining the Scope of a Pilot Program
When introducing new tools for her program, Wagner likes to start small so she can ensure her teachers have a greater chance to succeed in influencing students. Wagner chose five of Humble’s 42 campuses to get started with the IHT ZONEs: two elementary schools, two middle schools, and Summer Creek High School.
“We want to take a baby step today in order to take a giant step later,” she said. “ I need to know how IHT technology will be used to its greatest potential across all of our campuses . Teachers are the biggest factors in that.”
Both Wagner and the teachers she selected to participate in the program are committed to making it work. The goals for the first semester seem simplistic, but they are essential to long-term success, which shows the administration Wagner understands the commitment they’ve made to her program and, more importantly, the students.
Understanding the School District’s Process and Federal Funding Department
Before she had ZONEs for the students to wear, Wagner had to get her proposal approved. She met with Humble’s Director of State and Federal Programs, Dr. Jamie Bryson, first to introduce herself and then to make her presentation. Learning about how Humble has chosen to distribute its funding was essential to the process.
“It is critical to build an individual relationship in the special programs or title funding departments,” Wagner said. “Know who they are, introduce yourself and explain your program. Some districts are big, and it means a lot to make that connection. They may not know who you are at first.”
But developing the professional connection is only the first step, Wagner said. She had to learn how the district looks at different elements – “learning to speak the language” – and what a successful presentation would include. For Wagner, that meant learning how Bryson preferred to receive information.
“She’s very much a dot, every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T’ person, very interested in the details and the short and long-term goals for students,” Wagner said.
Because she began working with Bryson before submitting her proposal, she gave herself a better chance to succeed.
Advocating for School-Specific Heart Rate Technology That Improves Student Engagement
Wagner’s homework also included a bit of a role transition. In her role as a purchaser, she’s the customer. But before she could attain that status, she had to sell Bryson – and the district’s health advisory council – on the benefits. She became the IHT salesperson for her administration.
“You have to become the advocate and you must be knowledgeable about the product and passionate about it at the same time,” she said. “You have to believe it will make a difference and own it.”
Wagner did own it, explaining in detail how the technology she sought would positively impact students.
“It must be student-centered and student-driven,” she said. “Those are the keys to everything. The more kids you can show that you’re going to affect, the greater the return on what the district can get for you.”
Keep the Funding Department Engaged With Finished Product
Humble funded Wagner’s request, but she made sure that wasn’t the last time Bryson and other administrators involved in the decisions heard from Wagner. Prior to the on-site training she’d arranged with IHT staff, Wagner called Bryson and invited her to see what the district had purchased.
“I invited Dr. Bryson to come see the new product and she was delighted to get that chance,” Wagner said. “She loved that.”
Wagner’s final step is more about the future. Keeping colleagues engaged in the learning process and student outcomes will help to strengthen the case for requesting future funding.
“If I see great success, they know I’m going to ask for more,” she said.
Rewarding the District’s Decision by Guiding Students to Success
Throughout the process, Wagner remained confident that her district would fund her proposal. Now that it’s happened, Wagner knows she must deliver results. Armed with data from IHT’s assessment software, she can do just that.
“I’m blessed because my district truly believes in student wellness,” she said. “Make sure see it all, the difference that what you’ve purchased makes for your students and your program.”
And she’s seen a difference. While Humble’s students have only used the ZONE for a few weeks, early returns have been encouraging.
“We start with small but attainable expectations,” Wagner said. “We want to get them using the ZONEs, to get the students working so they can learn about and see and feel what is happening with them.
“So far, the biggest thing I’m hearing is that has completely changed the mindset of PE in high school,” she continued. “They are getting the monitors on and getting ready to go on learning what the objectives of the day are.”