Reynoldsburg News

Reynoldsburg: Race to the Top

Federal funds critical to district's innovative programs

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Reynoldsburg City Schools might have lost out in the latest federal Race to the Top grant cycle, but the district is still receiving funds from the original $400 million awarded to Ohio in 2010 and will receive $770,365 over the four-year life of the grant.

The district was one of three Ohio finalists for a federal district Race to the Top grant, which could have brought in an additional $10 million to $20 million had it been a winner, but all three Ohio finalists were denied grants Dec. 31, 2012.

School board members heard an update on the Race to the Top initiatives during their Feb. 19 meeting.

Tricia Moore, district director of partnerships and shared services, said the Race to the Top funds, including an Innovative Program grant, have contributed to early college initiatives in the district, including the partnership with Columbus State Community College, which enables Reynoldsburg high school students to take college classes in addition to their high school subjects.

Moore said the original requirements for Race to the Top, such as creating a new way to evaluate teachers and encouraging science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses, are helping Reynoldsburg schools achieve goals they have already established and also meet new mandates from the state.

"The benefits of participating in the original program are that we receive funding that helps align us to outcomes we either have to establish or want to accomplish," she said. "For example, all Ohio school districts must shift to the new Common Core state standards and our RttT funding is helping to pay for that work."

Moore said the district has developed one of the largest STEM pipelines in the country, with 2,150 students in K-12 now enrolled in STEM schools.

The district is in the process of making Herbert Mills Elementary another STEM school of choice.

Moore said the alignment of the district's curriculum to the Common Core state standards is about 80-percent complete.

"We are also making good progress on a new strategic compensation system that would evaluate and reward staff according to their impact on student growth and achievement," she said. "The most challenging aspect there is creating relevant and reliable measures of staff who work in non-tested grades and subjects, as well a support staff who contribute less directly -- but still critically -- to the learning environment.

"Our goal is to have a strategic compensation proposal for the board and the employee associations to consider this spring," she said.

Moore said the state's new data system will be provided free of charge for two years to Race to the Top districts.

"Our team is encouraged by the information provided to date on the system's capabilities," she said.

Moore said Gov. John Kasich's new state budget proposal leaves Reynoldsburg maintaining only flat funding from the state, with no increases, which makes Race to the Top and other grants more important.

"Overall, the core formula, as proposed, does appear to make our district less reliant over time on 'guarantee' funding," she said.

She said the state's proposal includes new flexibility for school districts in terms of operating standards while holding districts accountable to higher performance standards.

"We are excited about the proposed Straight A Fund, which would make start-up funds competitively available for innovations that promise to improve student achievement and save taxpayer dollars," she said. "We won't know absolutes until the legislative process is complete."

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