The Ohio Department of Education has awarded the Canal Winchester school district an $878,583 Straight A Fund grant to help increase student achievement in its elementary schools.
Superintendent Jim Sotlar told the board of education at its July 28 meeting that the district was given the thumbs-up to partner with EnvisionEd Plus, Instructional Design Innovations and the ESC of Central Ohio.
The goal of the partnership is to teach students to "think critically and problem-solve, communicate and collaborate, and be creative and innovative," according to Sotlar.
The grant will set up "Innovative Learning Zones" in the classrooms.
"The Innovative Learning Zones will help redesign traditional classroom settings in elementary schools to help improve engagement and learning," Sotlar said. "Canal Winchester's Innovative Learning Zones project is the first step in the district's overall plan to re-envision teaching and learning by providing engaging and innovative learning environments for all children in grades K-12."
While a few pilot learning activities will be launched during the second semester of the upcoming school year, the full program is not expected to begin until the 2015-16 school year.
Teachers with be trained in project-based learning and technology, Sotlar said.
Earlier this year, the ODE gave the district a $297,000 Straight A grant for the 2014-15 school year to help students interested in the field of medicine. Canal Winchester was among 15 central Ohio school districts in a consortium that received $14.4 million in Straight A Fund grants to support Innovation Generation, a multidistrict collaboration to expand post-secondary options for students and close workforce talent gaps that exist in the region.
Innovation Generation is part of the national Pathways to Prosperity Network and seeks to establish career pathways in advanced manufacturing/robotics, business logistics, health care and information technology.
The one-time grant will allow Canal Winchester to install two distance-learning labs at the high school and add about 90 laptop computers to the high school and the middle school, according to Curriculum Director Janine Taylor.
During 2014-15, the district will offer project-based elective STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes, including a new biomedical science course for juniors and seniors.
In 2015-16, Taylor said a new medical detectives STEM program will be established for Canal Winchester eighth-graders.
In other business July 28, Sotlar said preliminary test results for the 2013-14 school year show an increase in student achievement.
While the results are not yet public record, he said despite higher standards, Canal Winchester students met 23 of 24 indicators for the 2013-14 school year.
Those indicators measure how many students have passed required tests at a minimum level -- proficient -- or higher.
During the 2013-14 school year, the state requirement was that 80 percent of students in each grade and for each subject had to score "proficient" to meet the indicator.
Previously, the ODE required that 75 percent of students in each grade and for each subject score "proficient" to meet an indicator
During the 2012-13 school year, Canal Winchester schools hit 22 of 25 test indicators, Sotlar said.