The Reynoldsburg school district will receive $728,000 over the next four years to participate in the federal Race to the Top initiative.

The Reynoldsburg school district will receive $728,000 over the next four years to participate in the federal Race to the Top initiative.

The program is part of a $4.35-billion Race to the Top Fund provided by the federal government. Of that amount, $4 billion is for statewide reform grants and $350 million is to support states working together to improve the quality of their assessments.

Other states awarded grant money from the fund at the beginning of this school year include the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island.

District spokesperson Tricia Moore said each the money is dispersed quarterly each year, with some variance.

"The school board and the administration decided to participate in the program because they believed the work included in the state's plan would be good for Reynoldsburg and is the right direction," Moore said.

She said a transformation team of about a dozen teachers and administrative staff has been formed to coordinate and implement five key areas required by the state in use of the grant money.

These include: aligning to the state's common core standards for measuring student performance in math and language arts; adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace; building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals how to improve instruction; recruiting, developing, rewarding and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and finally, turning around the lowest-performing schools.

Moore said the grant money Reynoldsburg will receive will be used to train the staff on the standards and assessments and how to apply them to the classroom.

"We're working towards new assessments. In addition to the content of the state assessments changing, the method of delivery is changing also," Moore said. "Eventually, we as a state, will have entirely online assessments rather than paper-and-pencil tests that we're doing now."

The advantage of the online assessments is that results can be seen instantly and teachers can address gaps immediately, as opposed to waiting a few months, Moore said.

"So what we are doing now is working with the state to develop those assessments and figure out how they will be measured and how they'll work," she said.

"The bottom line is, we are always working to find ways for our students to perform at higher levels. Our students need to be college- and career-ready," Moore said. "They need to walk out of the door and step into whatever their next endeavor will be and be ready and capable and well prepared to do it."