District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson confirmed her commitment to increasing student satisfaction Feb. 25 with the announcement of a $5 million award to be used toward that end for the 2014-2015 school year.

“With this new award, we will help our schools meet the needs of our students beyond the classroom,” she said in a telephone conference call with reporters. “I’m a DCPS parent. And for me, I want my two boys not just to do well on their tests. I want them to thrive. I want them to love going to school, and feel great about their school.”

Increasing student satisfaction to at least 90 percent of the student body is one of Henderson’s top priorities, as outlined in the strategic plan for DCPS, “A Capital Commitment,” and a top concern of parents, teachers, principals and other stakeholders.

School officials characterize the $5 million student satisfaction initiative to come from the budget for the upcoming year as an extension of “Proving What’s Possible,” a $10 million grant program launched in 2012 that gave money to 59 schools to experiment with an extended day, new technology and teacher training, all geared to increasing student satisfaction.

According to a survey administered to 20,000 DCPS students in grades three through 12 last year, about 74 percent of Black students said they like their school, compared to 92 percent of White students.

To increase those numbers, each of the system’s 111 schools can apply for a grant under the new initiative to invest in field trips, extracurricular activities, clubs, new athletic teams, anti-bullying initiatives and other areas.

Schools can apply immediately. The amount of the award will be based proportionally on student enrollment. Final applications are due the week of March 5; the award winners will be announced during the week beginning March 10.

“I firmly believe these awards will help put our schools on even stronger footing,” Henderson said.

According to DCPS spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz, funding for the program will come through the budgeting process.

“The chancellor will make this a priority for the budget when she receives our budget mark from the mayor,” she explained.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has already expressed his support for the program. “Our schools should be places that make our students feel excited and supported,” he said in a statement.

“This new award is a great step in the right direction to help improve student satisfaction and ultimately improve our schools,” he added.