The Worthington Board of Education is asking the state to back off on a new requirement that allows high school students to earn credits by demonstrating mastery of course content.

The Worthington Board of Education is asking the state to back off on a new requirement that allows high school students to earn credits by demonstrating mastery of course content.

"Testing out" of courses may or may not be a good idea, but it is certain that the district needs more than a year to prepare for such a major change, educators said during Monday's meeting of the Worthington Board of Education.

The board unanimously approved a resolution requesting that the Ohio General Assembly revisit the timeline attached to the mandate included in recently approved Senate Bill 311.

The bill requires that the board set policy concerning students earning high school credit via testing by next December. The guidelines would be required to be implemented by September 2010.

Educators need time to assess the new requirements, deciding how to test students for mastery and addressing issues such as how to provide different ways to provide education for those who prove they already know the content of the courses offered by the district, said Jennifer Wene, director of academic achievement and professional development.

"It's a huge opportunity, but also a huge change," she said.

The board also heard a presentation from Worthington resident Thomas VanCleef whose new company, Solar Vision, would like to place solar panels on the roof of a Worthington school.

The company was started by three Worthington residents over coffee at a local coffee shop, he said. If Worthington agrees, the panels would be installed at no cost to the district.

The district would agree to pay for the power provided, which would cost 85 percent of the cost of electric power, said Worthington treasurer Jeff McCuen.

The agreement to pay for the power, plus tax credits, would provide the capital for the project, he said. The intent is to eventually provide panels for other districts and for non-profit organizations.

"We're trying to Johnny Appleseed the solar business," VanCleef said.

If Worthington agrees, the company would remain involved for 20 years, at which point the district would assume ownership of the system.

Board member Charlie Wilson pointed out that schools in Japan and Germany have used solar panels for many years. He asked why America is so far behind.

"We're trying to provide the vision that has been lacking," VanCleef said.

Education is an important part of the project, he said. Not only would the children be expected to teach their parents about solar power, but others might be brought to the site to learn how it works.

District attorneys are "one paragraph away" from an agreement with the company, McCuen said.

The board must first agree, and decide which building it would like to be used.

All of the board members said they know little about solar power, and would like time to learn before bringing the VanCleef and his company back for a decision.

The board also heard a report from four teachers who work as instructional coaches, assisting teachers and students in instructional strategies at six schools.

This is the first year for the program, which is federally funded though Title I, which targets high poverty areas, and Title II, which targets professional development.

Instead of teachers learning new teaching methods through the "sage on the stage" method, through which teachers learn during group instruction, they learn through "side-by-side" coaching, Wene said.

The support is needed to meet the needs of students in the 21st century, she said. Today's students come to the classroom technology savvy and accustomed to multi-tasking, presenting challenges to teachers to learn new methods.

"Teachers are having to recraft so children learn what is meaningful," she said. "Teachers can't go to a workshop and go back into the classroom and implement what they learned."

She did not know the cost of the program, which employs 3.5 full-time-equivalent teachers. One of the four coaches also teaches for half of each school day.

Coaches are assigned to Brookside, Colonial Hills, Slate Hill, and Wilson Hill elementary schools, Worthingway Middle School, and Thomas Worthington High School.

cbrooks@thisweeknews.com