The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 24, 2013

Buckeye proposes ‘bold’ changes to teaching system

Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — Traditional education could soon change completely, as local school districts compete for a statewide grant.

Buckeye Local Schools announced its plan for reconstructing its entire teaching system, as described in their Straight A Grant application.

Superintendent Joseph Spiccia presented the plan to the Buckeye Board of Education at a special board meeting Tuesday. Buckeye is partnering with Ledgemont Local Schools on the grant application, Spiccia said, so both districts will either receive the grant or they will not.

The grant is being offered by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) from their Straight A Fund. Spiccia said the ODE is looking for new and innovative learning options for students.

Spiccia said the Buckeye/ Ledgemont grant application outlines a progressive new plan for kindergarten through grade 12.

The K-8 plan will consist of a standards-based program in which students will advance through grades as they master subjects.

“In traditional schooling time is the constant and learning is the variable. We want to flip that,” Spiccia said.

Under the new program, “learning is the constant; all students will learn. Time is the variable. They will advance at their own pace,” he said.

“This is bold, but it is the best for our students,” Spiccia said.

The plan for grades 9-12 is to restructure into an academy concept. The high school would be restructured into three academies.

The first academy would be STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)/ Early College Academy. Students completing this educational path would graduate with an associates degree, as well as a high school diploma.

This would put students two years ahead of their peers as college freshmen, Spiccia said.

The second academy will be the Humanities Academy. Spiccia said this would be the “most traditional college prep academy,” and students will have earned a minimum of 12 college credit hours upon graduation.

The final academy will be the Workforce Academy with the Buckeye Community Partnership. Students choosing this path will participate in job shadowing, job readiness training, and receive certificates in manufacturing jobs.

Spiccia said the academy will combine workforce curriculum and curriculum developed by the community partners.

“We want to creat an environment in which every student has a path that is interesting and useful to them,” he said.

The schools are requesting for $2.4 million in the grant application; $1.1 million to carry out the program for Ledgemont, and $1.3 million to carry it out in Buckeye schools.

The deadline for applications is Friday, after only 12 days of being open to applications. Spiccia said they will know in late February or early March if they will receive the grant.

If received, the grant will provide funds for professional development training for teachers, as well as for renovations for computer, science, and blended learning labs, in addition to equipment.

Spiccia said they are looking at state-of-the-art technology to meet lab and classroom needs.

“This aligns closely with the new Common Core,” Spiccia said. “The model for advancement is similar to online community schools.”

He said that studies are showing “students learn as well or better online as in face-to-face instruction.”

Credits earned in the academies will be transferable to any state university in Ohio, but private institutions may choose whether to accept them.

Spiccia said they will be having greater discussions with teachers since it has been presented to the board.