District is finalist for Race to the Top grants
The Reynoldsburg school district is one of only three in the state to be named finalists for a federal Race to the Top grant.
Tricia Moore, district coordinator of shared services and partnerships, said the district is qualified to receive between $10 million and $20 million if it is one of the 15 to 25 award-winners nationwide.
She said any school district in the country was eligible to apply for the grants.
"The top 61 were named as finalists, out of about 400 applications," she said. "Now we just wait to hear if we get a grant. At this point, we are just keeping our fingers crossed."
The other Ohio finalists are the Cleveland Municipal School District and the Ohio Appalachian Personalized Learning Network Collaborative.
Moore said the U.S. Department of Education will provide close to $400 million in four-year grants to the chosen school districts; grant amounts will range from $5 million to $40 million, depending on student population.
The awards are expected to be announced by Dec. 31.
She said school districts had to submit proposals for plans to personalize learning, close achievement gaps and prepare students for success in college and careers.
"We formed a partnership with the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, through their subsidiary EdWorks, along with Battelle Memorial Institute, to prepare a proposal, which meant we had experts helping us with the timeline and the review process for the grant," she said.
"Our proposal was to take some of the existing strategies we've been using and expand those, such as increasing choices for parents and students and implementing more blended learning to provide students with access to personalized digital content that helps students progress at their own pace within a mastery-based system," Moore said.
She said the Reynoldsburg proposal is also designed to "maximize opportunities for teachers to work with smaller groups of students for intensely personalized education for every child."
Moore said district partnerships were also a part of the proposal, including continuing partnerships with Columbus State Community College, which is opening a regional learning branch within BELL Academy in January; and with BalletMet, which currently conducts classes at Encore Academy.
"We are looking to ramp up the partnerships we have to make them more systemic," she said. "We have been really successful in creating lateral relationships with individual organizations, but what we would like to see happen is to have all of these organizations come together with an 'uber' partnership amongst the organizations."
Moore said the district will collaborate with KnowledgeWorks in new ways in the future.
"Their latest thinking has been focused on how to combine the approach to blended learning with a communitywide partnership to create opportunities for outside content and instruction and levering those together to maximize resources for our students," she said.