Seven thousand dollars isn't much when you're faced with the needs of 500 students and 44 teachers, but Bakerfield Elementary School Principal Joseph Stevens will take whatever he can get.
In a school that draws pupils from some of the county's poorest families, there is never a shortage of needs for books, pencils and even board games used for teaching math to pupils who don't respond well to the traditional classroom approach, Stevens said.
The Aberdeen school will get a little help from the federal government. Bakerfield is one of two Harford County schools to earn a $7,233 federal grant as a reward for their performance on recent standardized tests. Havre de Grace Elementary will also receive the grant, state education officials announced last week.
Until last year, all schools that scored in the top quarter of their district received cash awards. But in tight economic times, the only schools receiving the grants this year will be high-scoring schools that serve large numbers of children from low-income families.
"We had such limited funds this year, they could only go so far," said Bill Reinhard, state Department of Education spokesman.
Next year, he said, the state does not expect to award any cash prizes.
The cash awards can be spent toward anything that improves student performance or family involvement, Reinhard said. One of the few restrictions is that they cannot be used on teacher bonuses.
Certificates will be rewarded to other high-scoring schools and to schools that saw test improvements in student subgroups, such as race and ethnicity. Stevens said one teacher in his school recently used her own money to buy discounted books for her pupils from a store selling used books. With the grant money, he would be able to reimburse teachers for such expenditures, he said.
"One of the biggest things we need are more books for children to read independently," Stevens said. "They have to be able to practice to get better. It's not just your traditional literature books - [it's] books for children who have interests in motorcycles, sports books."