Highland Park ISD Gets $4.9M Grant from Moody Foundation for STEAM and MAPS Initiatives

The Highland Park Independent School District has received a $4.9 million grant from the Moody Foundation that will benefit the HPISD Moody Innovation Institute’s STEAM and MAPS initiatives. It will also expand programs to include the Moody Education Solutions Accelerator.

Among the programs to benefit from the grant are those for mathematics education in grades K-8 and for dyslexia across the HPISD curriculum.

“We’re excited to continue to work with the Moody Foundation to advance educational experiences for the students of HPISD. We have already seen important contributions to our students’ academic development and success provided by the MII team working with the administration and the educators of the district,” HPISD Superintendent Dr. Tom Trigg said in a statement. “This grant is another step forward for this partnership.”

Institute was established in 2016

The Moody Innovation Institute was established in 2016 and this grant will allow the institute to deepen and broaden its efforts to engage teachers and students in exciting and highly relevant STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics) activities for all district students in grades K-12 and 18+, the district said.

Also, the Moody Advanced Professional Studies (MAPS) program at Highland Park High School is planning to add an additional course so that more students can access its rigorous, professions-based education, the district said.

The most significant expansion to MII is the addition of what is believed to be the first-ever K-12 based solutions accelerator that will research students’ educational needs within public education. MESA (Moody Education Solutions Accelerator) will work with key experts throughout HPISD, as well as those drawn from higher education and school districts across the state to identify, document, and implement workable and proven approaches to specific needs in the delivery of education.

“MESA will be an important asset. It will provide deep insight and proven research-based practical solutions to meeting needs in our district and potentially others around the state,” Dr. Geoffrey Orsak, executive director of the Moody Innovation Institute, said in a statement.

Programs will serve as a statement model

The programs will serve as a statewide model for removing barriers and providing innovative and effective solutions so that all students, K-12, can achieve their full academic potential, the district said.

The Highland Park Education Foundation said it will provide the necessary financial stewardship of the funds appropriated under this grant.

“HPEF is thrilled to continue our close partnership with one of the leading philanthropic organizations in the nation,” Highland Park Education Foundation Board President Michael Denton said in a statement. “The Moody Foundation has had a profound impact on the lives of Texans. We are truly grateful for their continued support allowing the district to provide proven educational opportunities to all students.”

Beginning with the 2022-23 academic years, the grant from the Moody Foundation will be implemented over the course of five years, the district said.

People Newspapers reported that the announcement comes as school districts work to recover from pandemic learning loss. A 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress that showed Texas’ performance in math during 2022 was lower than it was in 2019.

For example, the assessment in fourth-grade math showed the average score for students in Texas in 2022 (239) was lower than their average score in 2019 (244).

‘First school district in the country’ doing this

“What we’re doing is primarily drawing from the research that exists out at universities together with the folks that work professionally within education and putting those together so that we can translate that research into the classroom,” Orsak told People Newspapers. “To our knowledge, we’re the first school district in the country that has brought in that kind of research-based focus on really vexing and challenging issues in public education.”

Orsak and Jean Streepey are leading the MESA initiative, according to the report.

Streepey teaches the business design and leadership course in the MAPS department at the high school and is a STEAM instructional coach for grades 5-8 at McCulloch Intermediate and Highland Park Middle School, Streepey also serves on the state board for educator certification.

While the studies will run in parallel, Orsak said MESA would start by looking into dyslexia’s impact beyond reading, including science and math, the paper said.

“We’ll be looking ahead to try to figure out where do we go with solutions in dyslexia across the entire curriculum,” he said.

Streepey will head up research into math education for grades K-8.

“I was attracted (to the MESA project) because of the K-8 math research and just the chance to build the bridge between what’s happening in our classrooms and what is coming out of our research facilities and helping make that a bridge to help our classroom teachers and ultimately our children,” Streepey said. “HP and the Moody Foundation were so ahead of the curve in knowing that we needed to look at this issue, and then, sure enough, here we are in the middle of state and national concerns over math education.”

The original article published by Dallas Innovates can be found here.