Dayton Public Schools has been awarded a $10.25 million to boost six of the district’s lowest-performing schools.
Dayton, Cleveland and Columbus were the only public school districts in Ohio to receive the competitive grants for struggling schools, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
The School Improvement Grants provide funding over the next four school years. Superintendent Rhonda Corr said the money could be used in a variety of ways, but she spotlighted increased training for all staff, a better coaching system for teachers and a better parent support and involvement system.
She cited strategies “that we’re bringing into the schools to really press reset, because obviously what they’re doing is not working to meet the needs of all of our children,” Corr said. “It gives us an opportunity to focus primarily on literacy and math, to improve student outcomes.”
The six schools receiving grants are three elementaries (Meadowdale, Edison and Louise Troy), two middle schools (E.J. Brown and Wogaman), plus Belmont High School. All received F’s in Achievement on last year’s state report card, while student growth scores ranged from A’s to D’s, according to ODE.
Only Priority Schools – those ranking in the lowest 5 percent in student academic performance statewide – are eligible for the grants. Five other DPS schools are in that same category but were not awarded funding: Belle Haven, Fairview, Westwood, Longfellow and Meadowdale High School. All priority schools already receive assistance from the Ohio Department of Education’s state support team.
Corr said adding staff or after-school programming is possible, but the primary focus is on improving what goes on inside existing classrooms every school day. She said as best practices are developed, that should ripple out to other schools besides the six receiving the grants. She has been talking for months about developing a system of classroom coaches.
“We all need mentors, and teachers need coaches too,” Corr said. “You have to keep up with the times and keep changing your practice. It can’t just be chalk and talk where teachers stand there and talk and use chalk (on the board). It has to be more student-based, more hands-on learning … so our children emerge from school with critical thinking skills.”
Dayton teachers union President David Romick said he’s unsure how that coaching model will be handled, but he said the grants could be a good thing if implemented strategically. DPS just went back to a middle-school model this year, and Romick said the two middle schools that received grants are a good example of needed intervention.
“Some really focused professional development or coaching or teacher learning – whatever you want to call it — on that whole middle school age group … would probably be worthwhile in those two schools,” Romick said. “A number of people in those buildings may not have any experience with the middle school dynamic.”
Romick said Dayton Education Association members would appreciate more and higher-quality training opportunities, especially on school discipline issues in light of attempts to limit student suspensions.
Romick said long-term planning and sustainability will be key to the success of the grants, so any gains don’t just fade away after the four years of funding are over. He said existing teacher leaders might be hesitant to take on coaching roles if those jobs were at risk when the grant ran out.
Corr said many of the details are being worked out by district leaders, but she guaranteed there would be significant efforts on staff training and parent involvement. Outside of those costs, she was less firm about hiring plans – not surprising in a district that was considering layoffs two months ago.
“I believe there will be some opportunities (to hire people),” Corr said. “We may be looking for some internal candidates as well. Postings will be coming up for a couple of positions soon. We’re looking toward the coaching model and we may be able to start with our (grant) schools.”
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