New tests designed to gauge effectiveness of district changes
The Delaware City School District strives in its "race to the top" with other school districts across the U.S. through hard work -- and with the help of some extra grant money.
The district was selected in 2009 by the Ohio Department of Education to receive an allocation of $300,000 to use over a period of four years through the Race to the Top program.
Race to the Top is a federal program that began with the intention of preparing districts for new standards set by the department of education.
Only 11 states in the U.S. are competing for grant money. Those states must set certain goals and meet those goals in a set amount of time to receive the funding.
The district is working on four major areas: adopting new state standards for college; building data systems; recruiting and rewarding good teachers; and providing professional development for teachers.
The district has received a $15,000 grant to pay for additional testing that will add to the district's value-added component on the state report card. Value-added data measures students' academic growth from year to year.
The total cost for the testing is around $70,000 and includes all testing and scoring for second-grade tests and the ACT Quality Core testing.
Amy Piacentino, district director of curriculum, said the district is conducting evaluations that are crucial to seeing how the new initiatives are improving student performance.
"Our focus is always about improving teaching and learning," she said. "As we look at our data, we are hoping that we will be achieving at all levels."
The ACT Quality Core testing, for example, is given to students to make sure they are prepared and understand all the course material necessary to move on to additional training or college.
Any testing the district conducts outside of mandated tests will be added to the district's value-added score.
Piacentino said value-added data is central to Race to the Top, and that data is available for teachers to use.
"The value-added data shows that students are making more than a year's worth of growth in one year," she said.
This year, the district has begun to put the finishing touches on the new science curriculum and is working on its math and English standards.
Piacentino said teachers are continuing to collaborate and work on changes to the curriculum.
"We want to make sure all teachers have a voice, and it's not just one teacher making all the decisions for everyone," she said.
Piacentino said although the changes are a lot of work and have added quite a bit to everyone's plates, she believes they're worth it.
"We firmly believe that this is a huge part in moving us forward," she said. "We are able to use this additional data to focus on instruction. It's why we have an 'Excellent with Distinction' rating."